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On World Bipolar Day: ‘What I Want the World to Know’

Each year on March 30, World Bipolar Day aims to take us a little closer to understanding bipolar disorder and a little further from the stigma that can still surround the illness.

The International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), which supports the event and urges others to do so through this year’s #MoreThanADiagnosis social media campaign, describes World Bipolar Day as a way to “remember that those who have bipolar disorder are capable of achieving great things and to remind them that they are not alone.” The March 30 date marks the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is believed to have had bipolar disorder.

World Bipolar Day is also, the IBPF notes, a way to “learn more about the disorder from people who live with it.” In that spirit, we turned to several bloggers and others who openly share their personal experiences with the illness and asked them, “On World Bipolar Day, what do you want the world to know about bipolar disorder?”

“We’re real people having to battle something that we didn’t choose. Although it can be a struggle, a lot of us can say that putting in the effort to keep fighting makes getting up and facing each new day worth it because it makes us stronger.”
— Sarah DeArmond

“The world has had a cultural revolution that embraces diversity in sexuality, gender, race and disability. On the other hand, most countries adopted constitutions or laws that prohibit mentally ‘unsound’ people from holding public offices. Mental illness has been around since the beginning of time, yet we are completely excluded from a diverse society and disregarded by the accepted laws. We are not asking for money or fame; we are only asking to be accepted.”
— Denis Muthuri Mwarania

“Bipolar disorder threatens both your lifespan — up to 20% die by suicide — and your quality of life. You have to fight it every day, for years on end. It takes time, money, energy, strength, hope, and faith. Anyone who is committed to managing it, and does so with any degree of success, has an unfathomable level of courage and persistence.”
— Carrie Elizabeth Lin

“Having bipolar disorder can be a blessing at times and a curse at others. I decided to focus on the blessings. That has made all the difference.”
— The Mental Runner, thementalrunner.org

“I think the world should know that while bipolar disorder can be chaotic at first, it can be calmed. That is not to say another depressive episode or manic one will never happen again. But we aren’t stuck in a state for our entire lives of pure mania and pure depression, switching back and forth. We can live normal lives when we learn to control it.”
— Michele Barrett

“People who have bipolar disorder can lead and enjoy full and productive lives. I ask you to forget about stereotypes and what you learn from the media. We don’t have to let our diagnosis limit us or dictate our life circumstances. Having bipolar disorder means that I take multiple medications daily and I feel like my mind is at war with itself at times, but it does not mean that I can’t seek out the life I want. I have a career and a husband, and I am proud to be able to say that!”
— Melanie Luxenberg, IBPF volunteer

“Bipolar disorder is not about mood swings. People, on average, experience mood states from weeks to months, and we don’t flash Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I also wish people understood that bipolar disorder is a disease of the brain. Just like your pancreas or liver can get sick, the brain is just like these organs and can get sick, too. Because bipolar disorder is a disease of the brain, it makes it unbelievably complicated to understand and treat — but treatments are available and people do live full and successful lives with bipolar disorder every single day.”
— Natasha Tracy, Bipolar Burble

“The bipolar journey goes beyond just managing one’s emotions because we are more than just our emotions. It is learning to see who we are, and growing to know what we want. This journey is challenging for anyone, regardless of whether there is a bipolar diagnosis. Please don’t think that all our emotional wrestlings are due to the condition or, worse, assume that we have not been taking our medicine or that more medicine will fix it.”
— Jen Lee Teh, PhD candidate

“Bipolar disorder is a real illness and telling someone to get over it doesn’t help the illness. Many people joke about it and shrug it off as something that doesn’t exist. It’s adding to the stigma, not helping anyone involved suffering from it, diagnosing it, or medicating it. However, many rise and become extremely strong through the trials of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder doesn’t define a person and can help one rise to the challenges of life.”
— Tina Marie Gonzales, MBA, MIS

“I’d really like people to know that it is possible someone with bipolar disorder can lead a stable, normal, productive life. As long as we avoid triggers, guard our sleep and take our medication there is no reason why we cannot enjoy life just like anyone else.”
— Honora Rose, twobipolarchicks.com

“Bipolar disorder does not look the same for everyone. Without medication, I am primarily depressed with serious episodes of depression every few months. Infrequently, I have brief periods of hypo-mania during which I feel very happy and fast but I don’t do risky things. My medication, for the most part, controls the mood swings and I have a ‘normal’ range of emotions most of the time. I am able to work and have a life although I was on disability for a while because I was on the wrong medication. Life is good.”
— Rev. Mary Alice Do

“The medicine isn’t a magic bullet. My bipolar disorder has never been managed by medicine alone. Some people think, ‘Just take the medicine. What’s the big deal?’ But they don’t know what it’s like to take these drugs. The medicine doesn’t always work, and often, it makes me feel worse. Consistent sleep, adequate exercise, balanced nutrition, healthy relationships, a spiritual orientation to living — these are the cornerstones of my recovery. Bipolar medication is my last line of defense, but most people think it’s the only answer.”
— Chris Cole, author of The Body of Chris

“Bipolar disorder is an illness. It is no different than having asthma or having diabetes. It has its good days and its bad days. Sometimes a person who has bipolar disorder needs a day off for being sick. It may not be visible, but it is real and needs to be recognized that way.”
— Lauren Meredith

“Having bipolar disorder places me into a lingering question that begins the second I wake up and lasts until the second I finally fall asleep. I wonder what I’ll say and do and if it will be the right thing. This constant wondering generates an unbelievable amount of mental energy that leaves me exhausted. Sometimes I know what is making me feel tired and sometimes I don’t. What I’d like other people to realize is that I’m not lazy. I’m an intelligent person that battles something you can’t see.”
— Jessica Christenbury

“Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition. It is as much a MEDICAL illness as it is a mental illness — the only difference is that it occurs in our brains. There is no shame in having bipolar. I have asthma that I have to take medication for and occasionally become unwell with and that’s not embarrassing. So why should I be embarrassed when I have bipolar, which I take medication for and occasionally become unwell with? It’s the same thing. Why should I be ashamed for getting a chronic condition that occurred outside of my control?” 
— Sally Buchanan-Hagen

“Remember, when someone decides to call you crazy, judge you, or look at you like you have two heads, they are, without knowing, giving you a REALLY BIG COMPLIMENT! By doing so, they include you in a class of brilliant, creative, and ingenious people, both now and in history. Yep, the most famous, clever and inventive presidents, musicians, artists, philosophers, writers, actors, leaders and athletes have all been called crazy. Now that’s irony. Wikipedia has a list a mile long! Check it out. So the next time someone calls you crazy in a mean and hurtful way, don’t forget to say THANK YOU! You are amazing — you just have to believe it! Without you and me, this world just wouldn’t be the same!”
— Tracy Leone, myselfandhealth.com

 

There is still hope.

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