Stigma can limit our lives

 

I have found that when I have mentioned my diagnosis at workplaces, management’s responses have ranged from offering support (should the need arise) to being keen to nit-pick me out of post.  The latter situation should definitely not still be the case in this day and age, where medication and talking therapies can help someone stay well the majority of the time.  People with any form of illness, physical or mental should feel able to be honest with their workplace if they feel that illness may affect work or that they may need reasonable adjustments to be made.

 

It has also been the case that I have limited myself in fulfilling what others may see as my potential, for fear of becoming ill in work environments that are stressful. Due to the position of responsibility, I have chosen to work in positions where stress is lower, but I still get a different type of fulfilment.  This in itself can bring about frustration but, in thinking outside of the box, I have found other outlets for using my creativity and intelligence.

 

When making new relationships it is also difficult to know when, or even if, mentioning having bipolar disorder should happen.  Sadly I have also come across people who have said that “Based on the information (I have) given them, they have made an informed decision and do not want to continue the relationship”.  In another relationship I have had my partner claim that my being stressed was the reason that he started drinking vodka and wanting to “run for the hills”.  From what I could tell this was because he was frightened that I may be beginning a bipolar episode and wanted to avoid having to support me during that at all costs – even at the cost of the relationship itself.  Rather than making me keep quiet about my mental health issues, these experiences have led to me telling people early on in the hopes that, should they then decide to not continue a relationship with me, at least I will have not got fully emotionally attached.

 

My advice on being limited:

 

  • If you are going to tell people at work that you have got bipolar disorder be willing to show that you have strategies in place should you start to get ill.

 

  • Make sure that you find the most supportive person possible to tell, and ask them to come with you should you need to tell people higher than themselves in management terms.

 

  • It is up to you to decide if and when you tell a new friend or partner that you have bipolar disorder, but prepare yourself for them feeling fearful. This is largely due to ignorance and the more you can tell them about your personal experience and version of having bipolar disorder the better.  If they are still fearful after that then maybe it is better that they are not in your life, as they will struggle to be a support to you in the future.

 

  • Do not limit yourself when it comes to doing what you want to do in life. As long as your self-awareness is good, you have the best medication possible and others around you as a support network, there is nothing that you should stop yourself from setting out to achieve.  You have as much right and ability to live your dreams as the next person. 

 

Above all remember having bipolar disorder is just a part of your life and you are not defined by it. 

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