Stigma – a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.

A stigma can be associated with the actual truth or one’s ridiculous notion. Whether true or false, it has been my experience that they are (more often than not) unflattering or downright degrading. To be fair, there are moments of ignorance towards the subject. I do not mean “ignorance” in the derogatory sense, just that a person simply has no understanding of the disorder. However, my hyper-sensitivity kicks in when one makes flippant remarks about someone “most likely” being bipolar – there is a simple explanation for my impassioned state… I am bipolar. I am sure even the most novice-like detectives could have arrived at that conclusion – this being a bipolar blog and all. (If you are shooting for a blog about a horse, might I suggest something along the lines of Quarter Horse Quarterly.) Segueing into what makes me bucking mad are comments like, “I talked to Howie yesterday and he was in the worst mood. Then I saw him today and he was whistling an Adele song. He must be bipolar.” If I am at a restaurant and the woman next to me seems nervously rushed to make a decision between the baked ziti or lasagna, I do not throw a breadstick at her and declare, “If I would have known you were bringing your Generalized Anxiety Disorder to the restaurant, I would have suggested pizza!” Having a mental illness, physical disability or debilitating disorder is not fun or there for entertainment value… that’s what theme parks and movies are for. If mental illness did try to make its debut in those realms, it would be something along these lines: “Step right up, folks! Tickets to ride the Manic Mood Swings are only three dollars!” or “George Lucas’s new film, Adventures in Agoraphobia, got really bad reviews… mainly because no one left their homes to see it.” I will admit Arachnophobia was fairly notable in its day, but who doesn’t love Jeff Daniels.

These are very serious ailments that have derailed many lives. I am a highly-functioning, bipolar female. I have been fighting for 28 years and have no intentions of giving up. There are too many fabulous shoes to be bought and I haven’t even started Game of Thrones. Lucky as I am, there are some days when my thoughts race more than Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but I am armed with the knowledge that this is all a part of being bipolar. Bipolar does not define me and I am determined to not let it control or destroy me. It is this blatant stubbornness that prompted me to start blogging for the International Bipolar Foundation. I no longer want to stay closeted about a part of myself that came into this life with me. It is a part of what makes me who I am; I think I am pretty fantastic. I’ve grown stronger because of the struggle. “I am bipolar, see me soar!” (when I’m in a manically high phase) and I suppose “I am bipolar, sorry to be a bore!” (when I’m in a depressive low phase). Either way, I’m letting my Mental Illness Flag fly! Our community should start a clothing line… and I don’t mean an array of fashionable straitjackets. 
Bipolar is not sexy. In fact, it’s about as attractive to someone as a cold sore would be. I would also not list mania as one of my “special skills” on my resume. I signed on to share an entertaining truth about living with the disorder. I never was a debutante in the traditional sense, so I suppose this is my non-traditional coming out party. In truth, the prospect of being open about such a personal matter is terrifying. When anything becomes public knowledge, it can be used as ammo against you. I made the decision knowing that certain ramifications would be involved. Will prospective employers not hire me if they hear the “ugly” truth? From now on, will every normal reaction (like anger, sadness or frustration) be automatically attributed to my condition? These are very real fears, but they are fears for someone with bipolar who is or isn’t spotlighting them on an international blog. We all have demons. We are all unjustly judged and always will be. Life is not for the faint of heart. I suppose I could have written under some clever pseudonym… I always did enjoy an alter ego (it’s so Batman and Clark Kent).

Alas, that thought came and went, like the need to wear blue eye shadow or try roller blading. I would be perpetuating the stigma that someone with bipolar should feel ashamed or be locked up like a rabid animal. I am frequently selfish, a diva at heart, country as a turnip green, still in love with Taylor Hanson and a firm believer that mayonnaise should be outlawed… but a coward, I am not. I know that I will not be shifting the universe with my stunning repartee, but if one person changes their opinion or feels less alone… I’ve done enough.

For the readers out there, make the decision today to fight. Your best defense is stay well-informed about this disorder. You are not alone in this. As Randy Newman would say, “You’ve got a friend in me…”

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