In Through The Out Door

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

– C.S. Lewis

I have recently (and finally) set out to work on a “bigger project” I’ve imagined for some time now. I’ve only just gotten to the point in attempting to pursue this particular endeavor after both exhaustive research and personal experience.

My blog is very much centered around how bipolar disorder has impacted my life. I myself have to take a more critical, fact-based approach when viewing and interpreting the intricacies of this illness. I have to understand on a very black-and-white level what this journey entails for me.

But knowing facts and statistics doesn’t make one understand what “the beast” is or how it likes to feed. I’ve needed to step outside the box to get a different grasp on things for some time.

In order for me to make the leap to this new “project” I needed to at least try and see things from a different perspective. Unfortunately, it’s the perspective that so plagues and saddens me. So, I decided to speak with ten different “normal” people from various backgrounds to get a better sense of at least why people feel the way they do about the disorder. Whichever way that may be.

I initially went into this task asking why before even asking any real basic questions. It only cast a huge spotlight on my own personal bias. And perhaps just a little bitterness. But that’s for me to bear.

I haven’t the time to share all ten people’s views here or even list all the questions I asked. I thought I would share a few, though. I didn’t get all the answers I wanted, but the process helped me pack up some of my confusion and maybe created a little window of understanding.

WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER AS YOU UNDERSTAND IT?

FEMALE, 52: “It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated with medication. It can be difficult to find the correct medication or combination of medications to help. This medication may need to be changed over time due to changes in the body with age and becoming resistant to meds. It becomes very important to stick to your med schedule. See a doctor before making any changes. Don’t make any changes on your own.”

FEMALE, 26: “Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder accompanied by periods of mania and depression. People with bipolar disorder cycle through ups and downs. It can be a very dangerous illness if not treated properly.”

MALE, 30: “It’s a disorder that usually rears at its peak in your 20s. Opposed to an intellectual disability that is diagnosed only before the age of 17. It usually hits women earlier in the 20s rather than men. There’s no cure but there are medications that can manage the signs and symptoms of the disorder.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE STIGMA?

FEMALE, 52: “It can be scary because you don’t know what might happen especially if they are cycling and if one is not seeking treatment. It is portrayed in a negative way. I think it’s important for them to get treatment and try to stay well. Try not to draw attention to oneself and don’t forecast your information. People need to be shown as everyday people living their everyday lives.”

MALE, 44: “It’s sad that such stigma does surround mental health and it’s not right. Many people choose to not understand and hide behind that in order to not have to deal with the truth. The truth is real and can be scary, but it’s still the truth. In a world that has become so “diverse” and “accepting it’s amazing to me how we haven’t at least come a little bit further along when it comes to mental health.

MALE, 30: “It’s hard for me to say. I’ve worked around several individuals with bipolar disorder so the way I see it is pretty objective. I think more people today understand that it’s an actual medical condition that needs to be managed just like a condition that is superficial.”

FEMALE, 34: “It must be pretty scary and daunting for someone with bipolar disorder to have to face that kind of scrutiny. But you have to understand it can be scary to someone on the outside who doesn’t understand the illness the way someone with it would. Most people don’t know what to do because you never know how a person with bipolar disorder is going to react.”

HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO INTERACT WITH SOMEONE WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER DURING A CYCLE?

FEMALE, 52: “I haven’t personally, but I know it can be a handful at times. The person with the disorder isn’t always in control and you may never know how they’re going to react to anything. This is when they’re going through their cycles. It’s not always the case.”

MALE, 44: “I have friends with bipolar disorder. One of my best friends suffers from BD and you know what? He manages his symptoms and cycles and leads a very productive life. There’s always going to be the ups and downs, but they can be managed with the proper protocol and treatment plan. So to answer your question…yes, I do have people with bipolar disorder in my life and they’re all wonderful people.”

MALE, 30: “In my profession I work with people with mental health issues and they are people, too. Just like you and me. They just have to work a little bit harder than others to maintain a balance. They’re is nothing wrong with bipolar people. You may know someone who has it and not know at all.”

Well, I could keep going, but I’ve worn myself down just transcribing the few questions and answers above. (Maybe I’ll come back with a Part II and include some more). I’m truly exhausted and even maybe a little more saddened by some of the conversations I had.

The stigma shouldn’t be considered stereotypical of the illness when it stems from either an honest inability to understand or sheer ignorance, one more excusable than the next.

The point is the exercise helped me kick down the door to begin this project. After researching, blogging, and sharing my experiences I just had that moment I needed. And I hope to be able to share more on this project with all of you soon.

So, if it seems like I’m a little absent or even M.I.A. when it comes to this blog, don’t worry. I’m just out here trying to change the world.

I have recently (and finally) set out to work on a “bigger project” I’ve imagined for some time now. I’ve only just gotten to the point in attempting to pursue this particular endeavor after both exhaustive research and personal experience.

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