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Why Demi Lovato Doesn't Want to Be Called 'Bipolar'

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While having a mental illness can be part of your identity, not everyone prefers to embrace it as their identity. Whether you use person-first language (“I have bipolar”) or identity-first language (“I am bipolar”) is up to you, and everyone has to right to claim their mental illness in a way that works for them — including pop star Demi Lovato.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

In an interview released Monday on Elvis Duran’s “Label Defiers” podcast, Lovato, after being asked to share a label she wished people would stop giving her, revealed which language she prefers when it comes to her own bipolar disorder.

“When people refer to me as being bipolar, it’s something that is true, I am bipolar, but it’s not something I like people to use as a label,” she said. “It’s something that I have, it’s not who I am.”

Other members of The Mighty community have weighed in on whether or not they prefer first-person or identity first language. In a piece about living with schizophrenia, writer Syrena Clark explained that she prefers person-first language. “Call me by my name, not my diagnosis,” she wrote. “I’ve got a name, and it isn’t Schizophrenic.”

Another contributor, Johanne Grenier, said she uses both “I am bipolar” and “I have bipolar.” She wrote: 

I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar doesn’t have me, I have it. It doesn’t define who I am — I am still myself. But, does it? The difference is subtle. Who would I be, without my bipolar disorder? Would I be the same person? Would I have the same quirks, habits, preferences and dislikes? How much of my bipolar disorder makes me… me?

You see, I believe that without it, I simply would not be me — at least not in the way that I am right now. Some of these traits are bothersome: They impose limitations on me (I’ll get into more details on that in a sec), and sometimes, they take over with a force stronger than a tsunami. But some other traits are just the opposite: They are positive. They make me compassionate, sensitive, empathic. They make me strong.

While bipolar disorder does inform a lot of her music and advocacy work, Lovato said she’d rather be labeled as an advocate. “I use my voice to do more than just sing, and I use it to speak up about mental health because that’s something that I’m very passionate about.”

Do you prefer identity-first or person-first language? Tell us in the comments below.



Originally published: August 2, 2017
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