Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Me, Bipolar?

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

Well I am. But it took a long time to get here. I was so scared to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. PTSD, fine. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), fine. But bipolar? Not fine. Even after the government put me on disability I still fought my therapist against the diagnosis.

Why exactly? Well I'm not sure since BPD is more stigmatized then Bipolar is, I mean there are not many therapists who refuse to treat someone for being bipolar like they do for BPD. I know many people with bipolar disorder and never thought anything bad about it, or so I thought. But when I was first told that I was bipolar I wasn't aware of ableism in the way I am now. At that time I knew I had PTSD, but that was something I could get over given time. It was something that I acquired because things had been done to me, admitting that I was bipolar meant admitting that I had something that I was born with, that I would have for the rest of my life. It scared me. It made me think I was broken.

But I progressed. I applied for disability and got it. I started taking meds for the first time ever. I admitted that maybe, just maybe I *did* have a disability and I needed help. After all this I still fought tooth and nail against being labelled bipolar. As an anti-ableism activist I shouldn't fall prey to thinking of one diagnosis as evil and the enemy, right? Apparently not. How is it that I could accept some diagnoses and not the other? I admitted I had a disability, why couldn't I admit that I was bipolar?

It was the stigma attached to it. The thought that this was not something done to me. (I believe that BPD is a severe form of PTSD and I believe it, at least in my case.) The thought that this will never go away, that I would be labelled this the rest of my life. There was no getting over bipolar disorder.

While I was fighting the stigma against mental illness I was letting the stigma against bipolar disorder hold me back from being treated. I'm finally doing better, in no small part due to my mood stabiliser. It's a godsend. Since I have stopped fighting and accepted that yes I am bipolar I have been able to see how I let society's views of mental illness affect how I was allowing myself to be treated.

The stigma infiltrates all of our thoughts, even those of us who are fighting against it.

Here's more info on stigma.
My post on BPD is here


jo22 said...

Hi Lost Clown,

I think part of the reason being labelled with any mental illness is scary is because, in the eyes of certain people, it makes our views less valid. Which is frustrating when one has strong views! Also it's bollocks.

A lot of people with bipolar see it as a gift rather than a disability. Many of your creative spurts and 'ding' thoughts come when you're up. Look at it that way - you're certainly not broken.

spotted elephant said...

If it helps, try to remember that bipolar is (obviously) cyclical, so even the worst times don't last.

The last time I was in a severe depression was May, 2002!!! I'd never have believed I could go this long without that horrible depression. Mood stabilizers make a huge difference. I'm so glad yours is working.

Terry said...

I"m so glad you're feeling better, LC. You're right - bipolar is hard to come to terms with. After all these years I still struggle with acceptance that I'm not going to get over it, like you said. But as you know, it does get better. The stigma is tough, but being untreated is harder.

Rosie said...

Hi Lost Clown!

It's good to see people talking openly about stigma. After my breakdown, it took six years to get the BPII diagnosis. If someone had told me that I was bipolar years ago, I would not have been able to handle it. My aunt was bipolar, and all I could remember while growing up was some bizarre manic behavior. I was so desperate by the time I was diagnosed, that it came as a relief to me...then I became aware of the social stigma. As if we did not have enough challenges, we have to prove ourselves that much more to be as valuable as the next guy. I am very selective as to who I tell. Anyway, having a trauma background myself, I don't care what they call it - as long as they continue to refer to trauma survivors as having a "personality" disorder, I am outraged. We have been traumatized enough and now the psychiatric community is continuing our victimization and stigmatizing us. What does the ACTIONS/COPING MECHANISMS of cutting, suicidal tendencies, avoiding abandonment, and you know the rest, have to do with personality? Is one artistic, sporty, outgoing, shy, kind, mean, nice, easy-going, uptight, self-centered, generous, rebellous, obsessive??? Now they are personality traits. I've also heard Complex-PTSD used as an alternative diagnosis. Combine PTSD and bipolar, and you are bound to look like you have BPD traits. There is so much overlap. I say that a sign of a good trauma therapist is one who would never give you a "personality" diagnosis for having coped the best way you knew how. They are the ones that will help you learn other coping mechanisms and to help you learn to trust in a world that you experienced as so horribly untrusting as a child. Bravo for your therapist! As for medications, I once was very anti-medication because my experience had been very unsuccessful until I met my current psych doc. It turns out that I cannot take antidepressants because they make me worse. I take three mood stabilizers. I almost gave up after years of hopelessness. Now I am very pro meds, but I still feel it is a personal choice even though I would always encourage someone to keep trying. As for the drug companies, every once in a while one of them gives back. Did you know that Eli Lilly offers a scholarship for us bipolar folks. It's too late to apply for the upcoming school year, but if you're still going to school the following year, I think the applications open up again in October. Glad you found a mood stabilizer that works for you.

lost clown said...

right on rosie!

Beth said...

Went through the same problems, when you accept it, life is alot easier.

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