60 million people in the United States suffer from a mental illness and most of them try to hide it. Why? For the fear of being called c-r-a-z-y. This is the effect stigma has had on mental illness.
There seems to be a high price to pay in admitting that you have a mental illness. Many choose not to tell their employers in fear of getting fired. Is that legal? No. Yet, it still happens. I’m guilty of not letting my employer know. But I valued my job more than I valued the understanding of my co-workers. Of course I wish that I could disclose that with my employer. The relief in not having to conceal that part of me would be tremendous. However, the threat still looms of being terminated.
There’s a constant vicious cycle. Stigma causes one to hide or be dishonest about their mental illness, that leads to shame, which turns around and adds fuel to the stigma fire. We all love it when someone fights stigma by talking about it. That takes a lot of courage. But how many people are going to stand up when the bad outcomes outweigh the good?
Those with a mental illness are not broken, flawed people with weak characters. In reality, they have unique strengths. They have survived all the woes of their illness and have come out the other side a better person. They have become resilient and have overcome adversity. That should be what comes to ones mind when they think of someone with a mental illness. But that’s not how it is. Now that’s a shame…
Normal days are often few and far between for those with bipolar disorder. In my case the majority are down days, some normal days and then some days that are a little too good because I’m hypomanic. However your days measure out, there is a gap to fill in. You have to fill in the positive and negative gaps to get back to normal. So what mask are you wearing today?
It seems like depression is what requires the most covering up. There are days that the only mask that will fit is the one that barely gets you through the day. Other days, you only feel like a shell of yourselves and the mask you put on helps you fake it the rest of the way to happy. When you’re irritable you have to put on the mask that makes you somewhat pleasant and makes you seem like not too much is bothering you. Hypomania/mania has its share of masks too. You may try to mask that your operating at hyperspeed or that you are close to spinning out of control.
You may be faking it when you put on your mask but the masks themselves aren’t. They’re still you, they just aren’t the you at that particular moment. Putting on the mask is a way of coping and compensating. It enables you to play a character that best helps you get through the day. It’s a tool of sorts. One that comes to our aid when we mentally cant do it.
The days of normal, when the masks aren’t needed are the best. Your personality is at 100% and your genuinely happy. For the days that aren’t like that I’m grateful that I have my masks. No, faking it isn’t ideal but I can still go through the day and actually live instead of just function. What about you? Do you have masks?
Those of us who have changed our mental condition from bipolar disorder to bipolar IN order have something important to share. We have found strength in what was at one time a debilitating weakness. We have learned how to function in all states, including the extremes of mania and depression. The insights we have and the tools that we use can help our companies to function better in both boom and bust times. We can inspire everyone to move forward instead of being crippled by fear and doubt.”
This is an excerpt from a post on Psychologytoday’s website that was sent to me by a fellow blogging friend. This is just what I needed to read today. If you have time, you can read the rest of that post here.
When facing major problems there is definitely an advantage to being Bipolar. However, you have to look at it that way. Whether your history of being bipolar is long or short, you have already developed skills that help you to function during the up times and the down times. Knowingly or not, these skills are there and you know how to use them. The advantage? People without a mental illness have never been forced to learn how to function under less than ideal circumstances on a regular basis but you have.
When a major problem arises you have the skills that can help you not only function but to handle things quite well. These problems don’t have to be debilitating because our minds have already drug us through that. We may have come out somewhat mangled on the other side but we made it. Now its real life slapping you in the face instead of your illness. But, you can have a been there done that attitude because you have the skills you need to survive and they are all at your disposal.
It’s all in how you look at things. Yes, this illness is debilitating and stress and problems can wreak havoc. But put some rose-colored glasses on and see things differently. Are major problems a pain? Yes. Are you bipolar and therefore have the best equipment for these situations in your arsenal? Yep. I’ll take the glass half full any day.