That is a good question and let me answer that. I can only go on my own personal experiences so bare with me!
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
when I was just 20 years old. I had no idea what is was and I felt very out of control. Mental illness even 22 years ago had a huge stigma compared to today I think. The stigma of mental illness is fading away but not fast enough. I knew I had to tell some family members about it because I needed support to just get through the days of trials with medications to see which ones would work. We found my ‘cocktail’ quickly and I was stable. My father’s side of the family called me crazy but my mother’s side supported me one hundred percent.
However, I chose to go off of my medications because I couldn’t accept the fact that something was wrong with the chemicals in my brain. The problem affected my behavior and I was embarrassed. To make a long story short, when I turned 23 I decided that going off of my medicine was not a good idea and I needed it to keep my job and my new relationship. That new relationship back then turned into the marriage I have now 15 years later.
So….how did I accept that I was ill? It took quite a while. I took a class called The World of Psychosis at a local mental health clinic. It was in that class that I learned that knowledge is power. The more I knew about my disease, the better I could deal with it. Now, I came out of my shell with the news of the disease very slowly. I chose who I told and was cautious back then.
But when it came about the possibility that my nine-year old son may have Bipolar Disorder I decided it was time to come out of my shell all the way. I was no longer ashamed of my disease. If someone asks me what I take medicine for then I tell them. We have been judged time and time again for our son’s behavior. The people who know us or now it’s knew us had no clue. They refused to get educated on the disorder so they are keeping themselves in the dark. I, unfortunately, was hospitalized four times this year for Bipolar depression. This is the worst year I have had but I now have the right medications and it’s controlling it well. This is the best I have felt since September of 2010. People asked me why I was hospitalized and I just told them the truth. I didn’t develop that assertiveness over night. It has taken over 20 years for me not to be ashamed.
Mental illnesses are treated with medications just like any other disease out there. Cancer, Diabetes, Lupus and many more are all treated with medications. So what is the difference because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain? In my opinion there is no difference.
So…if you are working on coming out of your shell and you haven’t told anybody about your disease, I would encourage you to do that. Go slow with who you tell and make sure it’s somebody who can support you all the way through it. Somebody that you can trust. I encourage you not to be ashamed of your illness. It’s treatable with medicines and can be controlled. I encourage you to get involved with your local NAMI
organization. They offer support groups and a lot of information to help you understand and to come out of the shell of being ashamed. And look for websites that have good information on them.
Mental illnesses need a voice. And if we don’t become its voice then who will?