The Power of Choice

For so many years, I resented having to stay closeted about my bipolar disorder. If only the world were different and I could just tell people about my disease. If only the horrible stigma didn’t exist. If only I could talk about this openly with all of my friends, with my coworkers, with whoever I chose.

Earlier today, I had lunch with a new friend who suffers from PTSD, and she was describing her experience of living with what she calls an “invisible illness.” That term resonated with me because my illness isn’t something anyone knows about unless I choose to tell them.

And that’s when I realized that as much as I want the bipolar stigma to be lifted—for our disease to be defined as something other than ‘crazy’ by the culture—I also appreciate a luxury I’d not consciously realized I had until today: and that’s the luxury of choice.

I have the luxury of  choosing who I tell about this disease and who I don’t tell.

If you focus on all of the people you can’t share your truth with because they won’t understand you, you will drive yourself batty. Better to shift your energy towards finding a community of like-minded individuals online, in a support group, wherever, and accepting that to some people, your illness will always be invisible.

I used to feel so frustrated that I couldn’t really talk with my family about this disease. But now I’ve realized that they’re not the ones to whom I need to share this story. My sisters and parents are loving and supportive. That’s what I need from them. For a community of people to talk to about various issues related to bipolar disorder, I have formed trusted friendships, I have a therapist, a life coach, and I have this blog. Thank you for being there.

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7 thoughts on “The Power of Choice

  1. Fantastic post – it really says it all! (And no, I’m not a spammer, ha ha – this is Dayne and I mean it!)

    On a totally superficial note, I loathe the word “stigma”, just as a word, you know? Even if it meant the coolest chocolate that exists, I don’t think I’d like the sound of it. However, I guess if it was a pretty-sounding word, that would not make much sense either! Thanks for letting me ramble here…..

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    • I agree … I don’t just hate the sound of it, I also hate when groups/foundations say ‘fight stigma’ as if this is one particular battle. (As I say this I realized I used stigma in my post in this way.) Because there’s such a huge culture reset that needs to happen and it’s not so much about de-stigmatizing as much as it is cultivating an understanding of what it means to live with a mental illness. Now I’m rambling … :)

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    • Sometimes I feel like calling it “smegma” instead! ;) I’m a total dork. And you are not rambling at all!!! You are totally right in that we need to cultivate an understanding of mental illness and not focus so much on the word “stigma” anymore – I think it’s out now and people get it – but focus on starting actual conversations that lead to empathy.

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  2. Funny how the word gets out. Then more relatives understand. Oh, then they tell about Uncle J who was suicidal. Or, in my case, about my father. Once diagnosed, you tell your kids…and worry–and warn them! Coming out is scary, but well worth the risks.

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