Throughout my life, I’ve held my ground pretty well. While I was sure to make myself available to the many people I grew close to during my four years of high school for guidance and advice, I wasn’t able to do the same for myself. And it wasn’t a matter of choice, but an inner battle between positivity and negativity in my head that fought to the death inside my brain every single day. While one day I would be high on life, happy to socialize with anyone and everyone and feeling like I could do anything I set my mind to, the next I could wake up and hardly be able to get myself out of bed. This persona gave me a reputation among my peers as “crazy” or “too sarcastic,” and no matter how hard I tried to have a more consistent mood, I had no way of escaping the stigmas.
But of all the things I was referred to, the hardest to fathom was “bipolar.” I am 19 years old, I am a student, I am a young woman, and I am living with Bipolar II Disorder.
Now let me make myself clear, this is not a sob story about how hard it is living with Bipolar Disorder. Sure, the bad days are horrible, and the good days are a blessing, but that is not what I am trying to convey with this spiel. I rather just want to pose a question: if calling someone a “fag” or a “retard” is frowned upon, why is it so acceptable and common to refer to someone as “being depressing” when they’re upset about something or “acting bipolar” when they get angry or upset out of nowhere?
I was only diagnosed as “bipolar” about three months ago, but that doesn’t mean that being called “bipolar” for reasons I couldn’t control didn’t have me struggling to keep dry eyes in front of my friends. Any one person can develop bipolar disorder, just like anyone could catch a cold, or break a bone. I was called “crazy” when I made impulsive decisions while on the high of my manic state when I struggled to even remember the thought process of that decision when I slipped back into depression. When I did return to the depressive state, I was asked why I had to be so negative all the time. The worst came when senior superlatives were announced, and I was declared the reigning “Jekyll and Hyde” of the Class of 2013. In short, I was compared to a doctor deemed crazy who goes from a respected professional to an evil convict who terrorizes those he comes across multiple times in the blink of an eye. Was I that much of a monster? Did I deserve to have to discover that the majority of my class thought I was an unstable mess?
In short, the stigma associated with all mental illnesses, not just bipolar disorder needs to be destroyed. Think about it the next time you call your friend “depressing” or “bipolar” or even “anorexic.” There are real people struggling and suffering day to day from the illness you just used as an offensive adjective. If you have found yourself guilty of doing this, ponder this: the joke is really on those guilty of using these phrases. I am not only “bipolar, but I am strong, I am persevering, and I am living through obstacles most people will never have to face, as are any person suffering from any mental illness. There are other words that have been used to describe me: thoughtful, funny, hardworking, passionate. I am not my disorder. It doesn’t define me. If you take anything from this post, let it be this: words aren’t just words. Words contain connotations, and no one struggling from a mental illness should ever feel like a punch line.