My name is a Lauren. I am a work-at home mom of two beautiful, happy boys. I have been with my husband for almost 5 years, married to him for 3 of them. I volunteer twice a week to a local café which is run by a nonprofit. I recently joined the local roller derby team. I vote. I pay my taxes. I am sure most are lost as what the point of this. I mean I seem like a pretty normal member of society. However, when I throw in that I was diagnosed as with bipolar disorder when I was 16, the viewpoint changes. Because it seems that many have a hard time seeing past the disorder. Why? Because for some reason we aren’t able to change on the general public’s idea of what mental illness looks like.
I don’t fit the ideal. And since I don’t fit in the ideal, I am lying about my disorder. I am doing it for sympathy or attention. Or my all-time favorite, it is all in my head. To the people who say the last one, you sound stupid. Telling me that is all in my head is the equivalent of saying rain is wet. Just so you know, having bipolar disorder sucks. I would not wish it upon any of my enemies. It is a horrible feeling not being in control. Knowing the relationships you have destroyed because of it. The opportunities you may have missed or squandered because of it. And before you start to think I am looking for pity, save it. I don’t want your pity. I have no need for someone to feel sorry for me. I am not a dog in an ASPCA commercial. I want to be treated like someone with a “legitimate” illness. I want you to treat me like someone with diabetes or hypothyroidism. I want to be treated with respect.
I want understanding. I want you to understand I didn’t ask for my brain to not function properly. I didn’t ask to have a chemical imbalance. It is nothing I could have prevented. Just like everyone else in the world, I didn’t get to pick my genetic background. I didn’t get to see my odds of having bipolar disorder before I was born. This is all things that were beyond my control. And there is no amount of praying that is going to make it go away. I am not this way because I was coddled too much by my mother. Or I wasn’t loved enough by my father. If there was a permanent procedure to make this go away, I would take it in a heartbeat. This is not a choice.
I want support. I want to know that there is a system out there that isn’t completely broken. I want to know that if I need help, it is readily available. I want to get that help without having to hide in the shadows out of fear of being judged. I don’t want my abilities as a person to be questioned because I am seeing a therapist. So what if I take medications to get through my day? How am I any different than any other illness that requires daily life-saving medications? And they are life-saving! I am sorry people who kill themselves are selfish attention seekers who had a bad day. They are people who needed help a long time ago and was let slip through the cracks. They may have known that they needed help but were too ashamed to get the help. So this is societal fault. We are responsible. Whether you want to think so or not.
We as a society need to accept mental illness happens and it is ok to get help. If someone comes to you needing help, don’t tell them to suck it up and get over it. Help them!! Encourage them to get help. Help them find the help. Be supportive of their decision to get help. Defend them if someone attempts to shame them for getting help. Be vocal for legislation to help those with mental illness. I am not a burden to society. Nor is anyone else with a mental illness. The mental health community is a tight-knit group. We provide support for each other. We fight stigma as a united front, but it isn’t enough. It is just a drop in the bucket. We need those without mental illness to understand.
Lives are being lost from it. In 2011, according to the CDC, 39,518 people died from suicide. How is this acceptable? How can you go to bed at the time thinking, well good for them? It is deplorable. When did we become a society that lacks empathy? Someone being in such dark place should strike some kind of emotion aside from disgust and disdain. And the saddest part is with proper resources all of these could have been prevented. I should feel no shame for who I am as a person. I will not feel shame. Those who attempt to belittle me and treat me like some kind of second-class citizen, those are the ones who should be ashamed. You wouldn’t treat someone with cancer in such an undignified way. I will not stand for it any longer. I will be quiet no longer. If I have to scream from the rooftops in order to have those with mental illness treated as equals, then so be it. Mental illness is real. You cannot hide under a rock and pretend it doesn’t exist. It is time to make a change