Dare To Be Different

By: Conor Bezane

I used to be ashamed of my bipolar status. I was ashamed of all of the screwball things I did when I was manic.

That was back in 2008, when I tipped the shoe-shine guy $60 because that’s how much I had in my wallet and it seemed like the nice thing to do. I stopped strangers on the street, asking them what they were listening to on their iPods and talking their ears off about music. I bought a $1,600 designer tailored suit. I thought I was on a reality TV show. And that’s just a drop in the ocean. My addiction saw intense, greater lows, like befriending homeless people.

We who are bipolar are all a little bit eccentric. I’m proud to be eccentric and I think it’s what makes me me. I’ve been stable, without a manic episode, since 2009. But it would be OK if I did. I fear the crash more than the actual mania.

I’ve long said that people like us — bipolar people — are like X-Men. Our super power is feeling emotions more strongly than everyone else. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not just sympathetic, we’re empathetic. We genuinely care about each other and others.

The stigma of mental illness diminishes with each passing day as it gains greater visibility. Heck, 13 percent of Americans are on antidepressants, according to a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics. This is a 65 percent rise since the late ‘90s.

And just think about all of the celebrities who’ve been outspoken about their bipolar condition — Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, Linda Hamilton, Halsey. Historically, we who have bipolar are in splendid company. Figures throughout the ages have struggled with the illness, from artists like Vincent van Gogh and Jackson Pollock to popular musicians like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, all of which you can read about in depth on my blog.

Pop culture is teeming with bipolar references at this very moment. Claire Danes plays a bipolar CIA agent on Showtime’s hit show Homeland.

Movies like Touched With Fire and Silver Linings Playbook and the upcoming Gorilla and the Bird continue to explore bipolar themes.

We’re even on something as quotidian as a soap opera — there’s a bipolar character on General Hospital. Like it was said about gay people before they became mainstream, “We’re everywhere.”

If I had to assess my mood at this very moment, my disposition isn’t exactly sunny. I’m not 100 percent happy. And I’m OK with that. Acceptance is a skill we all must learn and embrace.

And we are all #BipolarStrong. It is with strength that we carry on our lives. Many of us don’t give in to the depression when it strikes. We persevere, knowing that our state of mind will once again change back to normal (whatever “normal” may mean for each of us).

This World Bipolar Day, I am advocating for all of us to come out. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings on Facebook, confide in a friend about your disorder, or even tell your boss, if the subject comes up.

It’s no big whoop anymore.

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