I turned 40 in January of this year and on the surface I seem just like most people but underneath the surface I’m constantly contending with emotional warfare that few can grasp or understand, I started showing signs of depression and anxiety when I was 14 or 15 years old but it wouldn’t be until I was 22 or so that they would properly diagnose me with Bipolar 1 Disorder, so for 7 years I was being medicated with the wrong medications and it ended up making things worse for me in the long run.
Some of the issues I have that stem from my illness are panic attacks, extreme mood swings, so many thoughts going through my head it could drive a person mad and I am rarely able to leave my home for long stretches as I have a dreadful fear of wide open spaces but as much as these issues affect my life and make things really, really hard for me the thing that makes having a mental illness the hardest is how others view or treat you because of it. Mental illness in general triggers something in most people that causes them to see you differently once they know but Bipolar specifically causes a lot of people to view you as unstable and the term is basically just slang for being crazy now, how many times have you heard someone say something like “She was being so Bipolar” when talking about someone that was just being a little difficult rather than someone with an actual illness.
Some of the worst things you can say to someone suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental illness are things like “Get over it”, “Tough it out” or “Why are you depressed , your life seems so good”. Very often mental illness is caused by a chemical in-balance in the brain and the only option for help are medications and I have a love/hate relationship with medications. I hate the side effects and hate how my meds make me feel but have dealt with my illness long enough to know I need the medication and it’s very important to take it exactly like I’m supposed to.
The stigmas attached to mental illness are a huge part of the problem, there have been countless people that have taken their own lives and allowed their illness to defeat them and most of these people could have been saved just by knowing someone really cared but because most people don’t know how to approach someone with a mental illness these people are often left on their own and forced to give up. When I was in high school I was very popular and outgoing and social and now at 40 years old I have one friend I see twice a year or so and I barely leave my house, one of the for sure symptoms of mental illness, sadly is you’re going to lose a lot of people you care about because they are just incapable of understanding.
I’ve often seen people group the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped together but the truth is the mentally ill are often very highly intelligent, there is nothing quite as annoying as being talked down to condescendingly by someone you’re much more intelligent than.
I just wanted to share some of my story because the people that have stuck around in my life are the one and only reason I’m still here to this day and if more people like me had more people like them the world would be a better place. So please stop and think and try to understand what people are dealing with in their lives because sometimes just letting someone know that you really care about them is enough to save a life.