Bipolar Disorder and the Stigma Crisis
A stigma! What’s that you ask?
–noun, plural stig·ma·ta
1. a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.
Bipolar Disorder, unfortunately, carries with it a stigma or a sense of shame. I have listed the definition above. I think the stigma of Bipolar Disorder and other like illnesses has changed some in the last few years for the good. Very often, we are called many things that we are not! Often we have been called crazy, illiterate, stupid, insane, and many other monikers that do not actually define us. Obviously, we wouldn’t choose the behavior that the disease induces.
I say this! “People need to get a clue!” A stigma usually happens because of uneducation. I have encountered many people who are uneducated regarding this disease or others.
This disorder is an organic, chemical imbalance of the brain. It has been proven numerous times that the chemicals in the brain are malfunctioning. We aren’t producing enough or possibly producing too much of one of or more chemical in our bodies. It takes medication to control these imbalances.
We have nothing to be ashamed of at all. Treating this disease is like treating a physical, chemical problem such as Diabetes. It requires medications like Diabetes, and possibly some other forms of treatment as well. Many times, when a person is first diagnosed they will receive a recommendation to attend therapy or counseling. I found this quite helpful as I was learning to live with the disease!
It’s also been said that we caused the problem ourselves. If you are thinking this, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no way we could cause our brains to have this disorder. No way! I would hope that each patient would have some kind of support from someone they love or someone who cares about them! When I was first diagnosed the first person I told was my Dad. Now, you don’t know the history of my Dad’s and my relationship, but for some reason I thought I could trust him with the news. I was devastated when he promptly told me I was crazy and needed to see a shrink to make my brain right! For a long time, I suffered alone with this disease. I don’t recommend that. It doesn’t have to be that way.
What do you do if you know people who are throwing the stigma at you? I suggest you find a local chapter of NAMI and see if there are support groups to help you through it. People who actually have the disease are often very sympathetic and can help guide you along. What about a friend who you thought wouldn’t understand but might? A parent? How about some member of the clergy? I just posted about this, but I have found that hospital chaplains, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Catholic clergy are very understanding with these disorders. Be careful when choosing clergy to help or support you.
I believe the key to the stigma is to educate those who are uneducated. There will be some who reject the education or others who want to know. We have to keep pushing and being a voice so this stigma of uneducation and shame is abolished!
The only way to make a difference is to get out there and be a voice!
For more information about erasing the stigma of bipolar/mental illness visit BringChange2Mind