I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17.
For those of you not up on your clinical psychology, bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes the brain to produce irregular amounts of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that help to induce various emotions. This results in occasional episodes of elevated mood (mania), as well as some instances of depression. The disorder has become infamous over the past few years, gaining a reputation for causing mental instability, increased aggression and a lack of self-control in patients.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a stereotype.
Bipolar disorder, and many other mental disorders, has always carried something of a stigma with it. I’ve witnessed this stigma firsthand: my high school’s administration seemed, for a short time anyway, convinced that I was a danger to myself and others, and that I had lost touch with reality. Even now, some of my peers think I’m emotionally unstable. At times, even my family has no clue what is going on with me, and this situation is frustrating for all of us.
I’m starting to lose my patience about it.
I’m getting sick of the way that mental illness is being viewed in modern society, as if it’s something caused by the patients themselves, and ultimately makes them lesser beings or second-class citizens. It’s not accurate, it’s not fair, and something definitely needs to be done about it. But what?
For one thing, the public needs to be more educated about the various types of mental illnesses. A recently released film"The Roommate" incorrectly attributes the antagonist’s behavior to bipolar disorder, which is incredibly insulting because it further worsens the assumptions that the audience has about the disorder. Bipolar disorder is not at all the same as sociopathy, and parents, teachers and students need to understand this. Society also needs to realize that each individual patient’s case is unique; just because I have a disorder that can potentially result in aggressive behavior doesn’t mean I will randomly lash out at anyone at anytime. In fact, I’m actually a fairly non-violent person, something many people can attest to. Through medication and training, one can control their mental illness, and sometimes even benefit from it.
Most importantly, the world needs to understand this absolute truth: beyond our different mental conditions, we are still human beings. I am more than just a patient with bipolar disorder; I am also a hardworking student, a loyal friend and a loving son, and that’s not even taking my extracurricular activities into account. If there is one thing that people seem to constantly forget, it’s that, as human beings, we all have the fundamental ability to reject our instincts and impulses. With the proper help and enough practice, patients with mental illness can control even the strongest impulses. Once society as a whole can understand that, the world will indeed be a better and more accepting place.