As someone who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 25 years ago, I would have to say, “I don’t know.” and “I think it depends on who I am asking.”
THE REASONS WHY I FEEL LIKE MOST “NORMAL” PEOPLE
- I have feelings.
- I deserve respect.
- I am a human being.
- I have talents and hobbies.
- I have a family.
- I believe in certain things and don’t in others.
- I recognize when someone is being taken advantage of and/ or bullied.
- I know the right thing to do and try to follow the rules of the world.
- I try to help those less fortunate when I can.
- I am of average intelligence.
- I have graduated from high school and college.
- I have held several jobs.
- I eat, exercise, and try to take care of my health and well-being
THE REASONS WHY I AM NOT LIKE “NORMAL” PEOPLE
- I have to take medications on a regular basis or could end up cycling into a manic or depressed phase. These medications sometimes have serious side effects sometimes resulting in hospitalizations for “medical” problems.
- I have to worry about people finding out that I have a mental illness because they might judge me.
- I have to fight the stigma attached to mental illness.
- Although cancer, diabetes, etc. are problems that society has accepted and people can talk about, usually talking about mental illness is taboo.
- I have a family who loves and supports me, however, many others afflicted with a mental illness are not as fortunate and often end up homeless.
- Society just does not accept me. They are uneducated about my illness, know there is help out there and know that I can function in today’s society.
- I fight the problem of being overweight due to my illness.
- I have to worry that in a manic phase I may do something I will regret later.
- If I am hospitalized for a psychiatric reason, I am often not treated with respect and dignity. I am lucky if my room is cleaned every 2 or 3 days. The staff is so overwhelmed that they do not have the time to give me the attention I need to get better. Oftentimes, the staff have treated me like an animal.
- Most police and other first responders are not trained on how to deal with me and my illness.
- Although I am very open and honest about my illness now, I had to try and hide it before in fear of losing my job and friends.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
Steps needed to be taken to raise awareness of an illness that affects 1 in 4 Americans. The stigma needs to be lifted so the mentally ill are not ostracized, discriminated against, and judged. The stigma needs to be erased so people in need of help, will go and get it.
Everyone should know where they or a loved one can go when in crisis or at least know what phone number to call.
Legislators need to listen and respect the thoughts of people with mental illnesses and their families in order to better the system.
Advocates for the Mentally Ill need to come together and demand change.
We, as people with mental illnesses, need to be treated like everyone else.