The War Against Mental Health Stigma

There are many days where a circumstance causes me to question if I’m nuts or if it’s everyone else. The war against stigma is one of those subjects. I would say that at least 50% of the discussion I read or hear on it is completely unreasonable with impossible goals. And what’s worse is that unreasonable, impossible discussions make it harder for other people to come to reasonable conclusions about us. Walk with me as I rant about this further. And allow me to infuriate some readers almost immediately!

Is Stigma Ever Fair or Reasonable?

Yes. It is. Google defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”

But Dennis, how can that ever be fair or reasonable? I can’t help what I am!”

Since I launched my website and started engaging in regular advocacy work, I have found that many of the people that harbor the worst feelings about Bipolar people and Bipolar Disorder had good reason to feel that way. They had Bipolar parents who abused and tormented them. They married a Bipolar person who cleaned them out and destroyed their lives. Their adult Bipolar child was toxic and refused to do anything to help themselves, burning them out and draining them of emotional and financial resources.

To suggest that these people would not, should not be fearful of Bipolar people is stupid. If you’re walking down an alleyway, someone jumps out of a door way, robs you, and stabs you; you’re going to develop a wariness and discomfort of cutting down alleyways with easy places for people to hide. Right? And that’s a pretty quick exchange in general. Imagine someone who suffered for decades at the hands of a toxic Bipolar person. Are they going to be running around with open arms to other Bipolar people? Hell no. They’re going to be wary, angry, and fearful.

And they have every right to be.

Bipolar Disorder Should Be Addressed with Respectful Fear

Do you respect Bipolar Disorder? Do you fear it? If you don’t, you need to at least a little. Deaths. Abuse. Gaslighting. All it takes is a single severe unwell cycle to do some shit that you can never take back. Maybe you’ve never had a severe unwell cycle before. Many unwell cycles do not always reach such extremes that we are a threat to ourselves or other people. However, each and every one of us has the potential to land in such a cycle. It can be stress in your life. It can be a bad reaction to medication. It can be anything that, for whatever reason, sends a Bipolar mind into destructive unwell cycle.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. There isn’t a whole lot that makes me genuinely afraid. What does? What goes in my brain when I have a Mixed Cycle. I’ve had three in my life and I remember each of them distinctly because of how awful I felt and how hateful they made me. My last one was so bad it was the reason I sought psychiatric help after contemplating murdering a bunch of people and killing myself. That wasn’t that shocking. I had thoughts like that off and on through the years. What was terrifying is how good of an idea I thought it was and that I had the capability to carry it out. That was enough to get me in for a psychiatric evaluation once I was jarred out of those thoughts.

My respect and fear for what is in my brain is what helps me stay compliant when I really don’t want to. When I’m sick of dealing with meds and doctors and all other other crap that goes along with trying to stay mentally well. I cannot lose to that Monster in my mind because if I do, the end will not be pretty.

And what if you’ve never had that experience? Well hey, Bipolar Disorder gets worse with age, not better. Tomorrow or five years from now you could have an unwell cycle that an intensity that you’ve never experienced before. You have to be prepared for that. The people that we love and that love us do too.

Much Stigma is Rooted in Irrational Fear

Do you want to meaningfully combat stigma? Then you have to come to terms with Bipolar Disorder and what it means to others. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the people who have suffered at the hands of other Bipolar people. Even if you’re not toxic, if you’d never dream of hurting or wounding another person in such a severe way, the fact that you’re Bipolar is going to instill fear in those people. And no, it’s not rational and it’s not fair. But it’s also not fair that others are victimized by toxic people of all kinds. Having compassion for those people takes nothing away from your own position and place in the world. Compassion takes nothing away from your own struggles or difficulties in life.

And it is a way to meaningfully combat stigma. To be able to listen, hear what they have to say, and be able to show them that a Bipolar person can care about their suffering as opposed to inflicting it.

All of the sugar-coated, flowery poetic bullshit that so many people peddle about Bipolar Disorder just drives those people further away. They KNOW how awful we have the potential to be because they experienced it first hand. Of course they aren’t going to respond well to that. Of course they’re going to think we’re lying manipulators touting that garbage.

I view other mentally ill people as my brothers and sisters in this war for well-being and peace of mind. I want us all to be treated humanely. Note that I used the word humanely, not kindly. Some of us cannot be treated kindly because some of us are toxic, abusive, whirlwinds of destruction who would be completely terrible people even if they weren’t mentally ill. Like it or not, we have to do our part to combat the shit these people put into the world and treat their victims with the same compassion that we would want for ourselves. Their pain and struggles are no less important than ours.

That is, for those of us that are able to. I am well aware that not everyone has the desire or ability to engage in these struggles. That’s okay, too. Staying well, sane, and balanced should always be our priority.

To combat irrational fear, we must introduce rational knowledge. And in my mind, that means not glossing over the severe damage that we have the capability of inflicting on the people around us.

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One Response to The War Against Mental Health Stigma

  1. Pixie says:

    I agree that Bipolar Patients can be nasty and abusive. I have been so myself. My caregiver, my younger sister was at the end of her tethers before she sent me to a rehab. The trouble is that many loved ones think that they have to tend to the Bipolar Patient themselves. A patient has to get professional help as soon as they are diagnosed. No family or friends can look after them. If they do so out of love and guilt they land up hating him!

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