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DAY 26: Label

Today I went for a calm lunch, perhaps what I would name as a ‘relief lunch’. An hour or two to just take my mind off all the things attacking me. I spoke to my sisters today about what has happened over the course of the week and it was immediately met with anger. I’m not the kind of person who meets things with aggression, so I just feel a looming upset from the repercussions of things. My family however are very protective and they can’t seem to get their heads around why life can be very unfair without a massive amount of reasoning.

It’s one of those situations where I feel hurt, I feel offended and I feel like I don’t actually like myself at all – and that I have no entitlement to feel sorry for myself, even though it feels like all my family do. It doesn’t sit with me well knowing that an unfortunate situation can make people view me as one of two things: a victim or a villain. When quite frankly, in regards to my mental health I shouldn’t be seen as either. I edge closer to a victim as I can’t control what happens to me but letting a diagnosis victimise me contradicts the idea of even battling the illness.

To be left feeling like not telling people my diagnosis too – is me refraining information from others – makes me feel very vulnerable. I have been very open with mental illness; I mean this blog alone dates back two years! I think when you discuss your disability to someone, it can allow someone to best support you but in opposite of that: people may treat you differently. I’ve learned now that stigma is all too real, and until this moment I really don’t think I’ve faced that much directed stigma – I’ve been very lucky in that the people who know me and know I’m unwell are supportive and can differentiate an episode from my character. With mental illness, just telling people you are ill isn’t enough. Knowing that not having an open communication about my illness with some people made them angry and shocked – makes me feel like my illness SHOULD be common knowledge, as if I am some kind of liability and that people need warnings. When I look back at so long where I don’t discuss my mental illness directly with people, maybe the shock lies in that – surprise, I’m a normal human being! The fact that my mental illness 9 times out of 10 isn’t identifiable tells me that my bipolar disorder shouldn’t be massively unsettling to others.

My university and employers all know about my illness. I’m also not ashamed of my illness so if people discuss it, it’s completely fine with me. I just don’t think it should be offensive if people don’t know about my disability. I would not take offense if someone never told me about his or her pancreatitis or diabetes. I understand that knowing someone’s struggle can make people support you – but half the battle, when you have something that you have to live with for the rest of your life, is knowing that people can and will look at you differently for it.

When I was 19 I asked my psychiatrist: ‘Can I stop my medication now? I think I’m cured, I feel okay’. That was the moment I found out that I had a lifelong disability. He told me ‘Bipolar Affective Disorder is treated like they treat diabetes, you may not always have the signs of it but you should continue treatments – just because you don’t have low blood/sugar doesn’t mean you’re no longer diabetic. Just because you feel good doesn’t mean you’re not Bipolar’.

I’m stuck with my disability for the rest of my life, so I will always try and find peace with my diagnosis – because it will not go away. If people could find peace with mental illness, that takes away half the battle. I’ll constantly be on the question, with every person that I meet, should I tell them about my Bipolar? Perhaps if people understood mental illness as a whole, we wouldn’t need to view disclosing illness as a ‘warning’, the mentally ill are not complete liabilities. I look at these questions when deciding when to discuss with others: Is it relevant? What benefit is there to disclosing my illness? Will I be stigmatised?

As ever, if anyone wants to talk or discuss you can find me on twitter @aymieblack. I hope you’re all doing well.