I made fake social networking profiles, lied about boyfriends, and of course thrived in the many fantasy worlds I had invented when I was really sick. For the longest time I believed I was destined to be someone other than the person that was living with my flesh and blood. Mentally I began to envision a more ‘attractive’ college student, model body, acne free skin, and a striking smile. Sometimes I would even add in something sexual into my fantasy of who I wanted to be or become. I was happy in this world of trying to be somebody else.
Here I was, in a jail, where I was the warden and I was sentenced to life until someone like Hercule Poirot discovers I am wrongly accused and proves my innocence. I remember the first time in college that I realized something was seriously wrong with what I was seeing and the thought processes that I was experiencing, but it was too scary to confront them. School does not teach you how to assess and ask for help when it comes to hallucinations, delusions, suicidal thoughts, or any other unexplained experience that we may encounter during our adolescence. Who wants screaming, panic attacks, or ignorance as a response when we ask for help? No wonder individuals are scared to get help when they need it. It makes sense to want to be someone else when we feel so exposed. Life moves so fast with expectations galore that the natural response that we all have experienced is pushing worrisome symptoms under the water because who needs another thing to worry about?
The reason why stigma is a problem is that it prevents anyone, not just to get help, but to want to get help. I think the most important thing people need to understand is that we are okay just as we are and that just like a car we all need tuning up. We may need to get a new car, but with any car we buy we have a choice of automatic over manual transmission, leather seats versus non leather, and maybe size of vehicle. Whatever car we pick it still will drive and take us places even with its new design, shiny exterior and comfortable interior, and like any car it will have problems. It is the same with a human being. We are capable of functioning successfully while we also change parts of our life, personality, and possibly our environment. We do not need to be a different person to lead a ‘normal’ life. We need to be a person that is willing to shed the layers of a mental health condition that is preventing us from living life.
Take it from me, it is realistic that bipolar disorder will give you more to life than what stigma makes us believe.
Read the rest of Susan’s posts for IBPF here.