Up, Down, And All Around

Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, and Kurt Cobain walk into a bar…

Yeah, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the punchline is far from funny.

One of them led Great Britain stoically during WWII. One of them is responsible for some of the most well-known and adored pieces of art work in the world. One is a musical icon who tragically ended his life too soon. So, you may be wondering, what do these three people have in common?

All of them suffered from bipolar disorder.

And so do I.

And now a joke: My friend who suffers from bipolar disorder called from the lobby. He said, “Hey, I’m feeling great today. You want to do something?” I said, “Sure, I’ll be down in a minute.” He said, “That makes two of us.”

No, it’s not a funny joke (nor an original one), but the subject is no laughing matter either. The stigma surrounding bipolar disorder is not only sad, it’s dangerous and deadly. There are approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States suffering from the mood disorder. Of those diagnosed with the disorder, 40%-60% of people will attempt suicide at least one time. Even scarier, approximately 19%, or 1.14 million people out of approximately 5.7 million with the disorder, will commit suicide. Bipolar disorder accounts for 3%-14% of all suicides, making it quite possibly the deadliest mental illness.

So, if you’re one of the people who liked the aforementioned joke, are you still laughing now?

I’m 31 now and was first diagnosed at 15. Then again at 17. Then again at 25, which is when I finally sought out help. For 10 years I lived in a constant state of shame and embarrassment. For many reasons.

But before I get anymore ahead of myself let’s get a basic idea of what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows, mood swings, and can affect many other areas of everyday life, as well. It is quite possible there are more people with the disorder for various reasons, whether it be from being misdiagnosed to being personally ashamed.

The stigma surrounding bipolar disorder is extreme compared to most other mental health issues. It is insidious and wreaks havoc on the person with the illness as well as those around them. Family, friends, and other loved ones often feel like they have to (and I love this phrase) “walk on eggshells” so as not to trigger or cause an episode in someone with bipolar disorder.

I hope to continue to share my story and my personal journey through this maze in my mind as I go on.

All I ask is for you to not try and understand me, and I won’t try to understand how my behavior affects those around me.

To Be Continued

Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, and Kurt Cobain walk into a bar…
Yeah, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the punchline is far from funny.

2 Comments

  1. Is bipolar disorder one of the conditions now in vogue to claim on TikTok? I have tourette syndrome and ocd. It’s maddening how people make light of these disorders and even use them as punchlines. Society has a very long way to go to understand the impact of mental illness on people’s lives and livelihoods. Good for you for raising awareness. Following.

    1. It’s amazing to me that people look down on mental illness in general. The stigma is so strong that it keeps people from seeking help. Hope all is well with you and I appreciate you taking the time to read my little blog.

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