Remember when you were little and you were always scared of the boogie man? We all were.
Why were we so scared, though? Because we’re afraid of things we can’t see. We’re afraid of things we don’t understand. Like STIGMA. The stigma of bipolar disorder is like the boogie man because when you’re growing up, you’re taught to fear things you don’t understand, to fear things that you can’t see or don’t understand. When people can’t see mental illness, they fear it.
It’s taught to them from childhood. So what we’ve got to do is educate people to let them know that the boogie man isn’t so scary. That’s one of the best ways we can fight stigma. But you need to refuse to believe this about bipolar disorder – That the stigma makes you a lesser person.
Don’t believe the stigma, and you won’t be a victim of it. Change the way you see yourself, and others will change the way they see you (you will no longer be a victim). See what I mean?
Stigma is a perception of someone else’s state of mind. Someone else cannot make you feel inferior because of their feelings. By you knowing who you are, what you are capable of, what they believe is their own problem, not yours. You’ve got to look at the person first before you look at the symptoms, before you look at the illness. If someone isn’t capable of that, that’s not your problem, and you shouldn’t allow them to affect you in a manner that’s going to prove them right.
The way you view yourself should not be dependent upon the way others view you, anyway.
Here’s a perfect scenario: If you see someone in a wheelchair, how do you feel? Do you feel sorry for them? Do you have pity on them? Do they want you to have pity on them? Or do they want to feel the same as you are? Having bipolar disorder is like being that person in the wheelchair. You want people to see through the outside to the person you are inside. You want people to see that, like the person in the wheelchair, you are like them. They just can’t see the part of your body where your illness lies. Even though our background and circumstances may
have influenced who we are, we are still responsible for who we become. It is your choice whether you are seen as a victim of stigma or not.
Here’s what I’m talking about. It’s a quote from a Jewish man named Victor Frankl, who was a prisoner in a concentration camp. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Now, if anyone could have chosen to be a victim of stigma, it would have been Frankl, yet he chose what he wrote. You have to know that you don’t have to be a victim of stigma, and you cannot allow yourself to be one. Like Frankl, you can choose your own attitude about it. You can choose to be a role model for other people with bipolar disorder. You can choose to educate those people who are still scared, who don’t understand. You can choose to help other people with the disorder stand up for themselves so that they aren’t victims, either.
To succeed where in the past you may have failed, to be stable when you weren’t before, gives you the confidence to look someone in the eye and say, “You’re wrong.” Success with bipolar disorder means to prove them wrong about you – that you are not a victim, but a survivor.
Well, I have to go!