How do I deal with the feelings of shame around being bipolar and needing medication?  I can easily tell people about my lupus or my fibromyalgia, but when I say “bipolar,” I feel like they are going to be turned off of me.  Like “Oh, I get it…she is mentally messed up.”

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Shame and bipolar go together like lupus and fibromyalgia go with physical pain. If you have one, chances are, you’re bound to have the other.

Reasons for shame? I think it’s mostly due to the stigma and judgments that clouds our illness. In our minds, we’re scared that telling people will make them think and/or say things about us like …

She has bipolar? Well …

“She must be mental! Send her to the nut house!”

“I don’t want to associate with her. People will think I’m mental too.”

“OMG, she’s probably super crazy and unstable.”

“I bet she’s been hospitalized a million times, maybe she should just live in one.”

“Oh great, there’s a ball of drama waiting to happen!”

“Well there’s no way I’m going to want to hang out with her and her mood swings!”

“She’s gotta be a high maintenance friend/girlfriend. I don’t want that!”

“She’s probably a B!” (oh you know what B stands for!)

“She’s unhireable.”

“She’s unreliable.”

“She’s a mess.”

“She’s a time bomb about to explode.”

“Who can trust her? She doesn’t even know what she thinks/feels most of the time!”

Ok, I’ll stop now. I did get a tad bit carried away. But seriously, when I consider telling people about my illness, I am convinced they are thinking one, if not all, of the above statements. Because that’s what others associate us with…don’t they???

Answer to that … USUALLY not.

I’ve been extremely surprised by the response I’ve gotten since I stepped out of the “bipolar closet”. Even before I started this site, every time I told someone about it, they’d open up to me and tell me about someone else they knew who had bipolar or depression. Then it would turn into a huge conversation and yada yada yada. I couldn’t believe they had this response. I really expected them to get huge bug eyes and run away immediately. (ok well, that’s kinda exaggerating it a bit, but still…I figured the reaction would be something similar.)

The difference between telling people about fibromyalgia and lupus, in contrast to telling people about bipolar, is stigma. Not to mention knowledge. A very good friend of mine has all three actually, and I’m going to admit, when she said fibromyalgia I said, “Huh? What’s that again? Something to do with too much fiber, right?” And I’d heard of Lupus. I knew it was hard to diagnose, but I had no idea what it meant or what any of the symptoms were. And a lupus flare? Um…is that when your hair starts on fire?

HOWEVER, you just mention the word “bipolar”, and I can guarantee you almost everyone and their mother’s uncle’s monkey will say, “Oh that’s that crazy disorder, right?” Sometimes they put it a little nicer and all, and sometimes (especially in my experience) they go into asking tons of questions about it. But we all know, that in the back of their minds, a tiny part of them is thinking the word “crazy”.

Does that you mean you should be ashamed? Absolutely not!

And NEVER be ashamed of taking meds. Be proud of yourself!!! And I mean that with all my heart. You are taking meds so you can take care of yourself. You’re treating your illness. There is no shame in that. Who cares what kind and how many pills you take a day. You’re effectively saying, “I’ve got bipolar, and I’m going to do something about it, dammit!” And whether that’s taking medications or using holistic treatments, you are doing something about it.

Please, never be ashamed of who you are just because you have an illness. It’s not about what illness you have. It’s about how you go about coping with it. Granted there are going to be times where we feel like we aren’t coping, but I promise, if you are treating your bipolar, you are coping. There is no shame in that!

I hope this helped. I know it’s a bit long and drawn out. I just hate to see people being ashamed of whom they are due to bipolar, when in fact, whether they know it or not, they are probably amongst the strongest, smartest, most creative people out there. And THAT is a fact! (And if it’s not, it frocking should be…but I’m pretty sure it is.)

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