Above: mixed media on canvas by Zaeli Eliza
“You’re making mental illness as if it’s a big deal!”
“You talk too much about it. You’re glamorizing your illness!”
“You don’t need medication. It’s all in your head.”
“Think positive. Toughen it up.”
Clichés, I know.
Thinking it over, most of the time, the way I express how I go through the diurnal hurdles of my indescribable, bizarre matters-of-the-mind are misinterpreted by some friends and acquaintances. I know how to put myself in their shoes — it’s pretty easy. I just have to pretend I don’t have bipolar disorder, don’t know anything about it or have no experience on how it has brought me up and down. It’s just a piece of cake to blurt out a comment when someone talks about bipolar disorder.
Damnant quod non intelligunt. Yes, those who have no idea what it feels like condemn what they don’t understand about the illness. I talk a lot about my bipolar experiences and other whatnots about my existence because it’s a familiar territory, and part of it is that I also want people to know that, like other illnesses they see, despite mental illness being invisible, it is a real illness as well.
I remember I once asked my psychiatrist, “When does a condition become an illness or a disorder?” She answered me with, “If it hampers your functioning and coping with everyday life, then it becomes an illness/disorder.” Makes sense to me.
I understand that people cope differently in life. With regards to people having bipolar, some prefer to remain without medication and resort to homeopathy, yoga, meditation and the like. Some find medications as a “safety net” for mood swings and other comorbidities that come with bipolar. Others cope through integrating homeopathy and pharmacology in their lives. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
The point here is about respecting one’s choice of treatment, validating one’s feelings and being supportive rather than critical. We are all different. What works for ants won’t work for elephants; what works for steam engines won’t work for bandwagons.