I have Bipolar disorder. But this essay will not be, “Inspirational Porn”… Mental Illness.

9f8b421612ac8eca55fc5e1c1e7e254a

I’ve been asked or told more than a few times to write about my Bipolar illness. I take issue with it every time. I’m defensive about it—and for good reason. I haven’t found it’s been particularly useful for me to write about my experiences dealing with it for over a decade. It’s affected me and made me feel worse and more incompetent. In fact, I’ve found it rather distressing and very upsetting writing about it. But probably not for the reasons you may  assume. I’m not embarrassed by it, I tend to view it only from a medical type of perspective. I equate it to something similar along the lines of being diabetic. I haven’t found talking about it or getting any type of psychological therapy has been particularly useful at all. But I’m also not implying I fully agree with the medical model too. Medications are hit and miss with very little benefit overall to us sufferers, except to Big Pharma, “the house always wins”.

Something on either end of this black and white dichotomy, the war between psychiatry and psychology, doesn’t sit right with me too. I find it ironic that several diagnoses even within the DSM promote the ideal of healthy people not succumbing to, black and white thinking as being the ideal. But the entire book is precisely about splitting and dividing, categorizing ambiguity and grey areas of humanity. Stereotyping what it means to be human. Because at this point, it doesn’t appear that either authority are willing to use actual medical research to develop treatment nor use psychology to get past their own biases. It’s the Confirmation bias in its fullest.

Bias and stigma is another huge issue within our atypical human experiences with mental illness. I’ve heard it all. Everything from mental illness contributes to mass shootings, “they’re just crazy!” that’s often been attributed to the white, entitled male population of our society. That same population is also at the helm of both the DSM and APA that constructs and administers to us then doles out diagnoses arbitrarily. And for most psychiatric and psychological patients, if you question this authority you’re again stereotyped and labelled as that ugly and derogatory classification known as, noncompliant. It’s an end in itself. Meant as a form of censorship to stop understanding ourselves and what reality truly is for us.

Another peculiar bias and stigma I often come across is the idea of people with mental illness are more creative. I don’t find myself particularly more creative or eccentric than anyone else. Indeed I also believe this to be a dismissive term that wipes away our intelligence. It’s demeaning. No one would ever think of applying this idea-term to someone like John Forbes Nash Jr. who had schizophrenia or even Einstein who may have had high-functioning autism. Or even to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci who most likely dealt with ADHD. All were gifted but both with creativity and logical reasoning abilities.

I’ve also encountered people, generally the public and media, neurotypicals that expect me to make it my life’s work to defend against stigma or to totally devolve into a lifestyle that encompasses me being only my mental illness label. They encourage me to write about it, talk or do art etc. Or they misinterpret me totally and diagnosis me on the spot for being manic when slightly happy or totally depressed when I cry. This is a part of me. The same way your fingers are attached to your hand. They’re not your entire body. And it’s not my entire story nor my total history, nor even what I should be confined and relegated to as this being my only benefit to society and the media.

The media particularly favors this trope of us being like superheroes, overcoming great obstacles to make it in society. A type of Inspirational Porn they market to the public about how people with disabilities should be. But it’s entirely selfish and with a great lack of true understanding of our lives and our illnesses. I struggle daily with symptoms from both bipolar and the effect from medications I take. I will never be an archetype for success. I’m fallible, I struggle and I’m human just like you. I’m not a finger, I’m an entire person.

~Sara

Resources:
The mental illness myth: People like me aren’t the cause of America’s mass shooting epidemic by Sarah Fader http://qz.com/565472 via @qz
Facts About Mental Illness and Violence http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_violence.php
Myths About Mental Illness – Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/myths-about-mental-illness/#.V73JS_krLIU
The Myth of the Creative Genius By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/02/10/the-myth-of-the-creative-genius/
The myth of the mad genius: Mental illness and creativity http://realkm.com/2015/11/19/the-myth-of-the-mad-genius-mental-illness-and-creativity/

Art credit, “We’re All Mad Here”: https://static.skillshare.com/uploads/project/95fcd62b2699d85c4776cea3b0456965/de4ea36d