10 Things I Want to Clear Up About Living With Bipolar Disorder

Just like many mental illnesses, bipolar disorder is largely misunderstood. Here is a list of the common misconceptions I have noticed since being diagnosed:

1. It’s not just changing your mind on a topic.

I hear it all the time. “I’m so bipolar right now! I can’t make up my mind.” That’s not what it means to be bipolar. Bipolar disorder is having uncontrollable shifts in moods, going from manic or hypomanic to depressed, or a mix of the two. It’s not a choice. It’s a real illness.

2. You can’t just “get over it.”

It’s not something a person chooses. Bipolar disorder is an illness. You wouldn’t tell a person with another condition to just “get over it.” That’s just not how it works.

3. We don’t have control over our moods.

Sometimes we know when it might happen if we know some of our triggers, but we don’t always know. It causes us to act differently, sometimes even irrationally. If I had control over my moods, then I certainly would not choose depression every few weeks.

4. Hypomania is not better than depression.

Sure, I can get a lot done when hypomania hits and I feel like I have all the energy in the world. I also get reckless, putting myself in danger or even my family by spending excessive amounts of money. Besides that, bipolar disorder works in cycles, so we always know after the mania hits, the depression will come soon after.

5. Taking medicine doesn’t make it all go away.

Taking medication absolutely helps, if you’re lucky enough to find the right cocktail of drugs. Psychiatric medication does not cure the illness. It simply curbs the symptoms.

6. We’re not being lazy.

Part of my treatment involves not working more than 25 hours per week. It has greatly reduced my stress and helped me gain some control over my life. If I could work a 40-hour work week, then I would, but I need to take care of myself first and foremost.

7. It’s not an excuse.

Sometimes I can’t go to work because I just don’t feel up to facing society, let alone being in my own skin. I’m not being lazy. I’m just trying to survive.

8. Having bipolar does not mean you’re artistic.

I wouldn’t say it’s cool to be diagnosed bipolar, but I also would not say that there’s anything wrong with it. It just is. Mental illness does not discriminate, and it doesn’t happen in just those who artistic.

9. I’m still capable of being rational.

One of my biggest fears coming out about my disorder was that people would not take me seriously. It has happened though, where I get upset and someone says, “You’re just having an episode.” No, I am having human emotions. My whole life is not about my illness.

10. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you.

I can be hard to get along with. Sometimes, I feel like I’m right and everyone else is wrong. Sometimes, I just can’t stand talking and I snap on anyone who speaks to me or even looks at me the wrong way. I don’t mean to be a pain. I still love you, even when my illness takes control over me. Those are the days I need my loved ones the most, and it means everything when I realize they’ve all been there for me through my ups and downs.

Related: Mental Health on The Mighty Podcast

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