Living with mental illness Archives -

Living with mental illness presents two sets of challenges:

Firstly, there are the symptoms of the illness itself that can be disabling and disruptive to a healthy lifestyle. Second, people with mental illness have to constantly contend with the prejudice, stigma, and stereotypes related to what it means in society at large to not have good mental health.

As a consequence, people struggling with mental illness are less willing to be open and talk about their condition, and the less communication there is, the fewer opportunities exist for awareness and education, and the more space there is for misconceptions to develop. And these misconceptions provide the ideal environment for stereotypes and stigma to grow and multiply, perpetuating an unfortunate cycle of shame and suffering.

When you don’t acknowledge you need help, you suffer alone. For many, this ends up being a death sentence. One that could have been avoided. Once we overcome the shame and start a conversation, we break down the walls of isolation that the stigma depends upon and start our journey to understanding, acceptance, and finally healing.

Despite the increase in Bipolar Disorder diagnoses, much about the condition is still misunderstood and many of the commonly held beliefs are based in fiction. For one, there are people who don’t even consider Bipolar to be real. They believe the term was fabricated to excuse people who are lazy and lack motivation. In fact, there is neurobiological evidence that supports differences in the chemical make-up of the brain related to someone with Bipolar Disorder as opposed to someone without it.

Another myth concerns the presentation of the disorder – that people with Bipolar switch between extremely manic and extremely depressed moods all the time. The truth is that there are two types of Bipolar – Bipolar l, where an individual has experienced a manic episode, and Bipolar ll refers to an individual who has experienced mild manic episodes with at least one depressed state. Fluctuations between these two states are not necessarily frequent or constant, and someone with Bipolar isn’t in a state of depression or mania all the time. This is another misconception.

With treatment, an individual with Bipolar Disorder is able to lead a healthy lifestyle with periods of months between either manic or depressed episodes. This leads to another myth stating that people with Bipolar are unable to be successful in work and personal relationships. It all comes down to managing the condition properly. After diagnosis, your doctor will help establish a treatment plan involving medication, therapy, and active strategies like regular exercise to help you maintain a healthy balance and live a fulfilling life. That said, there is no cure for Bipolar as many still believe.

Periods of wellness do not mean you no longer have the condition and can therefore stop taking the prescribed medication or follow through with other treatments, like therapy. Bipolar Disorder is a chronic condition, and although proper treatment can greatly improve the overall quality of life, episodes of mania and/or depression are likely to occur over the course of an individual’s lifetime. As mentioned above, medication isn’t the only way in which to treat Bipolar – therapy and healthy lifestyle strategies play a role in managing the condition as well.

People often think that there’s nothing they can do to help someone with Bipolar Disorder, that they have to take their medication and that’s it. But in conjunction with medication and psychotherapy, people with Bipolar benefit from good nutrition, exercise, stress management, and also social support. This is a big one – there is a way you can help – by simply being a form of support.

And this is how we can begin to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in general. By being open, communicative, and supportive. By reaching out – whether you are dealing with mental illness, or find yourself in the support system of someone with mental health problems. The best way to start is to confront it, and not hide behind the unknown. Find mental health events in your area and get involved.

Learn about the various disorders that people live with and for which they are unfairly stereotyped. Educate yourself about mental illness and become part of the conversation – spreading awareness, challenging misconceptions and correcting them. Do not be quiet when terms are misused in ways to degrade others, and use the opportunity to communicate positivity in the place of shame.

When people start to realize that there is nothing shameful about mental illness, they will find it easier to open up about it, to learn about it, and share what they have learned. When we have a society filled with accurate information and positivity, we will be free from the stigma that stakes far too big a claim on something it has absolutely no right to.

At ZwavelStream Clinic we are dedicated to practicing exactly this kind of positivity. Our striving is to always challenge negative attitudes – fighting ignorance with education – so that we can change the tone of the mental health conversation for the better.

Seeking professional help for mental illness is a courageous act that should be celebrated. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or would like more information about treatment for Bipolar Disorder.