Previously I have written about friends asking me what to do if they think that someone they know has bipolar. Recently, I have been thinking of friends who think that they themselves may have the disorder.
They come from different circumstances but one common thing was the fear and anxiety that they felt at the possibility that they may have a mental health condition.
I can understand that no one wants to have a health problem, but the added stigma of mental health issues makes the situation so much worse.
Often, people put off communicating about their psychological struggles until the situation becomes dire rather like someone delaying getting tested for cancer because they are afraid of the diagnosis. In doing so, they forego the benefit they could have had from early detection. Similarly, people with a mental health condition can benefit from getting help early.
This is because it often takes a while to find the right doctor/treatment plan, and if one is in the depressive state of bipolar, it can be so much harder to have the energy to look for the necessary help and support. On the other hand, when someone is in the manic phase, they are unlikely to acknowledge there is a problem.
So my advice to anyone who think they may have a problem is this: talk to someone you trust and get help as soon as possible.
Here are some fears that can get in the way of doing that:
- fear of being judged or of being labeled as an attention-seeker
- fear of making the problem real by talking about it
- fear of having a mark against them for having sought psychological/psychiatric services
For the first fear, I would say that those who really care about you would want to know if you are struggling.
The second and third fears are more complicated to face due to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I strongly believe that talking about a problem is an important step to getting a solution. If you have a condition that needs treatment, you will be glad that you took action early. If it turns out that you do not really have a mental health condition, this should not count against you imagine someone being denied a job because they saw an oncologist due to suspicion of cancer, even if they were eventually confirmed to not have cancer.
However, due to the reality of mental illness stigma, people can sometimes still be stigmatised simply for seeking a psychologist/psychiatrist even if it they are not diagnosed. Although such stigma is being challenged by NGOs and mental health advocates, it takes time to completely go away.
So my appeal to those who have such fears please, for your own sake and the sake of those who love you, dare to seek help. You may face challenges due to stigma, but the alternative of not getting help has consequences that are just as bad or even worse.
As a Christian, knowing that God loves me and will make a way for me (so far I have not experienced any real lack due to my bipolar diagnosis) really helps me to overcome fear of any kind. It is not easy, but it IS possible.
Read the rest of Jen’s posts here.
Image via flickr