What I have, not what I am.

Tuesday March 6, 2018

In trying to do my part to reduce stigma, I am openly talking to others about the fact that I have bipolar 1 disorder. Typically, I will get to know someone a little before disclosing my condition but sometimes it happens spontaneously.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not running around saying "Hi, I'm Maria and I'm bipolar". I think people would look at me strangely and perhaps run away. However, more importantly, I AM NOT bipolar. I am a person who happens to have a bipolar disorder. I have never heard anyone say I am cancer, so why should I promote my illness as my identity. I am so much more than that. In fact, I will make the distinction very clear to someone to whom I'm speaking to for the first time. I will straightforwardly ask them if they noticed that I said I have bipolar 1 disorder not that I am bipolar. I want them to be clear on the difference.

A lot of times I get the remark that I don't look like someone who has bipolar disorder... Clearly, they haven't seen me when the black dog is sitting so heavily on me that I'm suffocating. Or when my spending almost catches up with my rushing thoughts, but it presents me an opportunity to educate others, just by talking. I think that it is especially important here in America where the news is populated by mass killings.

Unfortunately, people with pre-existing mental health conditions here have access to firearms but not health care. That's a tragedy but I digress... I really want to stress that having a mental health condition does not define us. I have bipolar 1 disorder but I AM:
• Loving
• Smart
• Caring
• Loyal
• Trustworthy

I know it's easier for me to reveal my condition being that I don't work outside my home. I also select where and when I talk to others about my condition. However, I was recently asked if I would mind being interviewed by our local paper about having bipolar 1 disorder. I responded yes but was very anxious that all who read the paper would know what I have... even some people I would rather they not know. This prompted some soul searching and I have come to grips with a public disclosure, and I'm now comfortable with anybody/everybody knowing about this one aspect of my life.

I'm curious, do you talk to others about your mental health condition(s)? How would you describe yourself when saying I AM...?

Wishing All love and peace,

A Moodscope member.

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