Stigma Lives Amongst Us

I just had an interesting experience. I am a member of a few online support groups now, which is something I was afraid to take part in earlier. I think like so many others I had fear of being judged, categorized unfairly, or just unsupported. In this exchange I had with someone in a group I experienced everything I was hoping to avoid. It was a good learning experience though.

This person decided that I was in fact manic because I had enthusiasm for my work. He decided I was unable to lead this project, and would undoubtedly fail at my task. He did this based on my diagnosis alone. That is discrimination! Discrimination amongst my peers, means that others have internalized this notion of permanent limitations based on this label alone. He was basically saying, albeit indirectly, that HE had limitations, so I must as well. I haven’t created walls like that around my life.

It is TRUE that bipolar causes massive disruptions in one’s existence. There is NO doubt that there is struggle to overcome for all of us. But for me, that was only true until I found a treatment protocol that worked (medication, exercise, sun-lamp, no drinking, therapy, and meaningful work). I have been so fortunate to get to this pinnacle, with the help of my patient doctor, lots of personal strain and effort, and the unconditional love of my family (namely my husband).

This brings up another point, that I have often faced, with friends and family alike — so the people that really matter to me. I’ve found on many occasions the need to “prove” some sort of state of mind. I think the sad truth is that people do not trust your reactions *permanently* after this diagnosis has been bestowed upon you despite your actual level of health. I understand why, and I am not even suggesting that it needs to be change. I am really just pointing out the existence of this internal conflict. No one wants to be “checked in on” like a child. No one. I do understand that an important part of stability is letting go of one’s ego, and accepting that those around you simply care. But still, as someone who has learned to accept help, it’s irritating at best.

I’m realizing that if stigma and discrimination is found amongst my peers, then I will face it head-on in the larger society around me. This will be particularly true as we move through the production process. I imagine I will be sized up and my capabilities judged quite often. Now I was prepared for this obvious scenario, but I was less prepared to be cut-down by someone who shares my diagnosis. I was expecting more empathy and understanding, which perhaps makes me naive.

The sad truth is there are people who will never see themselves as a full person, an equal, in the eyes of society. I can only say that this notion makes me even more firm in my resolve to make this film. The truth of the illness, the truth about possible recovery, the truth about treatment, stigma, and healing alike all needs to be visualized to comprehend it. Perhaps I can help my accuser realize that they are perpetuating the very stigma that holds us all down.

To anyone reading this, who has been doubted. Don’t internalize a word. Keep striving and taking action towards being the best version of yourself possible. Let your gifts of creativity, numerous talents and skills, run wild. I’ve seen some of the most profound artwork and humanity derived from people with so called mental disabilities. Make realistic plans, be inspired, and don’t temper the innate creativity that lives in so many of us, and you will succeed at your given task. I believe in so many of you out there.

The statement that was made by this poor disgruntled soul said something I’m sure others will consider, so I am addressing it here. He states, “You want to find more out there, but there’s not much to be found. There’s nothing out there to find. It’s a mental illness. It’s all been researched before. It’s all out there in open books left and right.” *note I’m leaving out the swearing and name-calling shenanigans because it wasn’t creative enough to share*

I feel like this couldn’t be further from the truth, and I look forward to compiling all of the research, the people we capture on film, and compiling it into something meaningful for people in the bipolar community and those well beyond that cohort. This close-your-eyes-and-accept-it approach doesn’t settle well with me. There is so much out there to learn and share, and we will.

My love to all of you at Thanksgiving. I hope it is filled with love and peace in your homes and minds.

Steady On,

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