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The Scary Statistic About Bipolar Disorder That Needs to Be Addressed

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I have done some research about my illness. I learned that 1 in 5 people die by suicide. Those are scary statistics when you think about it. It means I have a pretty good chance of not watching my children grow up. I could miss out on the first day of school, proms, graduation, weddings and even meeting my grandchildren.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

A person with my illness has an average lifespan decreased by 9.2 years. 9.2 years. This means there would be almost a decade or more of time, I would end up missing out on. 9.2 years. It makes my heart ache just thinking about it. I would potentially miss nine years or more with my loving husband.

The hardest part of it all is there is no cure. There is no “getting better.” There is only remission maintained by diet, exercise, outpatient therapy and medications. This is if I have the insurance to cover all my medications, regular blood tests required by some medications and doctor visits.

Then, there are the side effects of some of the life-sustaining medications: loss of fine motor skills, liver damage and weight gain to name a few. These are the sacrifices made to keep me alive, if I can afford it. Sometimes, I don’t have the money and I have to go at it alone. I have to take each episode as it comes, praying I have enough strength to make it to the next.

Some days, I grow weary of the struggle. I get tired of fighting and I just want to let fate decide. I look into my children’s face and believe they  deserve better than an always sick mom. Then, I think about going to the hospital for treatment, just to stay long enough to get myself in a good place. But who would take care of my children?

It’s hard to get people to watch my kids. Sure, people may feel sorry for me, but not enough to reach out a helping hand.

If I end up falling into the “1 out of 5” statistic, I will seen as a villain — not a hero. There most likely will be no ribbons worn in honor of me. No one will be there to light a luminary at a walk in support of my illness. There won’t be t-shirts, no fundraisers, no memorials or 5Ks. No one will talk about the fight I put up. They will only focus on the part where I “gave up.”

The stigma of my death will carry on to my children. For, if my children chose to share how I died, they will probably not be met with sympathy — but pity. My death will forever lower my worth as a mother. It is a shame because my children will know how hard I fought. However, they will be frowned upon if they choose to honor me. They will have to defend the legitimacy of my illness.

However, there is a silver lining in all of this. Though it may be potentially deadly, it is not terminal. Matter of fact, death from this illness is 100 percent preventable. With research, awareness and proper treatment, no one will ever have to die from this illness.

I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year. Bipolar disorder results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span, and as many as 1 in 5 patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. These are unavoidable truths that need to be addressed.

Truth is, I don’t want to be a statistic. Seeing my children have at least a 15 to 30 percent chance of being bipolar, I don’t want them to be one either. We need to stop treating mental illnesses so lightly. We need to start recognizing that they are potently deadly illnesses.

No matter how someone dies, their life mattered. We need to start recognizing this and start acting upon it. My fight deserves the same dignity and respect as any other. In this world, every life is precious.

Follow this journey on The Bipolar Mama.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 

Originally published: August 3, 2016
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