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When It Feels Like You Have to 'Prove' You Have a Mental Illness

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Sometimes, sharing is difficult, and sometimes, I may share for the wrong reasons.

What do I mean by that?

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The wrong reason is when I want desperately, too desperately, to be believed. Yet, I realize it’s not my job to convince anyone that I am sick. It’s not my job to justify or prove that my bipolar disorder, especially at this moment in time, is unbearable. It’s not my job to prove the only reason I can get up in the morning is thanks to a cocktail of medication that allows me these seemingly false but necessary moments of strength.

When able, I must participate in life. Participating in life is part of my treatment. I celebrate that. I need that. I get tired sometimes of having to, or feeling like I must, look or sound a certain way to earn the “green light” of being believed or being sick enough. I am tired of thinking I must give off visual cues so that people feel comfortable with believing I am sick enough.

By whose standards, I wonder?

The moments I can laugh with my family or joke with my friends I hold onto because the next moment may find me plunging into darkness. Such is the unpredictability of a bipolar depressive episode. If you see me smiling or hear me chattering away, then recognize I am simply managing my symptoms in a less grueling way in that moment. Be happy for me if you can.

I am sick now. Right now, I am not able to “power through” or “fight off” this episode. A healthy diet and a good dose of exercise will not make me well. They may help, but they won’t fix it. Lighting scented candles and meditating are also helpful, but not the answer. Sadly, my illness is in charge, and I can manage in whatever way I need to.

No one chooses mental illness. It is not the “new black” or “on trend.” Yet, neither is it something to apologize for. There is no shame in this illness. My bipolar disorder won’t look like anyone else’s. It presents differently in everyone. For me, sadness is only a tiny sliver. It is so much more, and sometimes, it stops me in my tracks. Times like right now.

It is in these times I must draw on my own words when I am advocating for mental illness. It is not just for me. It is also for anyone else who feels that they don’t have a voice. There is no shame. Stigma has no power here.

This post originally appeared on Positive Angst.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 19, 2016
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