When I was a kid, my mother was really big about instilling the simple concept that you should treat those how you would want to be treated. This includes those who may not treat you in the nicest way. Honestly the mental health community is the worst at this. We are a big reason why the stereotypes still exist. Some on the biggest prejudice I have dealt with has been with through those like me. And it is really sad for those who trying their lives day to day. So, how is the Mental Health community perpetuating the stereotypes of those with a mental illness? Easy. They act like the stereotype. It is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So the goal of all this awareness and stigma-fighter is so we can be treated like every other person on the planet. We don’t want to be seen or treated any differently. We want our lives to be validated. What I don’t understand, is how we can expected the outside community to have respect for us, if we don’t hold respect for our peers? Up until I started my blog and really speaking out, I was a Silent Fighter. I went about my day doing my best to prove to the outside world that my bipolar disorder didn’t define me. I was actually quite good at it. I still to this day come across people who had not a clue. And to me, each of those people was a victory towards ending stigma. I mean that is what the goal in all of this is. Right?
However, there seems to be a lack of respect from some for people who do this. I have on numerous occasions have had the validity of my diagnosis questioned. Not only has my diagnosis been questioned, it has been denied to me. I have had people, who are non-medical professionals, tell me that I was not and could not be bipolar. Why? Because I didn’t “act” bipolar. I did not portray the stereotype. And this is from people who are supposed “Stigma Fighters”. How fucked up is that? Because I didn’t rant every mood swing on every available social media outlet while wearing a bright sign labeled, “I have Bipolar”. So my credibility of having a mood disorder was completely questioned. It doesn’t make sense to me.
When we do this to each other, we are breeding the stereotype. We need to start leading and living by example. We need to act the way we want the world to see us. Now I am sure there would be some that would say that I am telling people to hide their disorder. We should be quiet and ashamed of our disorders. NO! I am in no way at all saying that. I just become tired of people using it as an excuse to be a jackass. I HATE when people act out of control and then say they can’t help it because they are bipolar. No. Having a mental illness is in no way an excuse to act like an asshole. Please stop using your mental illness as a crutch of why you can’t get your shit together. There is plenty of ways to get help. You just have to be willing to take the steps necessary to get the help.
Yes, the healthcare system is broken. However you can’t expect them to want to go out their way to fix if we aren’t going to use it anyway. Why waste the time and taxpayers dollars? I will admit I am not on medication but that is because I have learned how to manage myself. I went to therapy for a long time and have been on medication before. And you can bet your sweet ass that if I started to spiral out of control, I would seek medical help. There nothing that burns my ass more than when someone, post after post, “cry” for help, then they do nothing. People just give advice and tell them that they care. Then the poster just ignores them. After a while people think you are crying wolf and no longer trust you. Also you are skewing those people’s view on what they think people with mental illness are really like. Then when someone honestly is honestly crying for help, they are ignored. We need to start thinking about how we appear to others. You can’t tell me you don’t have that friend who posts every five seconds of the woes of their love and thought, “For the love of Jesus, get some help.” If you say no, I call bullshit. I know I have.
Now, I believe education is key to breaking stigma. The public needs to know what every day like is for us. They need to know the struggles we face on the day to day basis. However, it needs to be done in an effective, thoughtful way. I think being someone’s face about it is the wrong way to go. You can’t force change. Change is a creature of subtlety. I think it must start with us as a community. We need to have respect for each other first. We need to validate that our Silent Fighters struggles are real. No one should ever have to “prove” their mental illness. It is honestly more degrading than being called ‘crazy”. We also need to have respect for the outside would. They may not know personally what you are going through personally but that doesn’t meant their concern isn’t genuine. Maybe they might suggest something stereotypical. Instead of answering with backlash, see this as an opportunity to explain and educate. I once met someone who thought Bipolar Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder was the same thing. I just explained to them that was a total difference. I even joked that even some days it may seem like I am two different people from my mood swings.
We may not be able to stop ignorance but shouldn’t mean we should breed it. To some it may seem like there is much that is being put on our behalf. I mean we are the ones that want change so why wouldn’t the pressure be on us. Movements take time and effort by all. If you really want change you have to be what you want the world to see you as. We need to be the change.