Personally I have never had a problem with being labelled as Bipolar. In fact, being able to give myself labels gives me a sense of comfort and control. I guess because things in my head can be so chaotic, I need to have labels that in a way ‘ground’ my identity. I know that this is not the case for everyone. Some people despise being called Bipolar. I understand that too; it can be particularly damaging in certain contexts.
At the support group I go to, we go around the circle giving our names and why we’re attending. Personally I just say “Name, Bipolar”. Others say “I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder”, “I have bipolar disorder” or even “According to my doctor I am Bipolar”. Very rarely does anyone say “I am Bipolar”. If you think about it, why would anyone say that? Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, a real illness, but an illness does not define your being. No one says “I am Cancer” or “She is Diabetes”, so why are we so quick to say “I AM Bipolar”?
People with BD think about it all the time. Some people think that focusing on it so much does more damage than good, but the fact is that since it is a chronic illness that affects every aspect and every day of your life, you can’t not think about it. Just taking your medication first thing in the morning and last thing at night reminds you; how could it not? Then there are the visits to psychiatrists and therapists, adjusting dosages to find the right mix, charting your moods and side-effects of medications.
It is easy to completely disappear into this ‘thought commitment’. Your live starts revolving solely around your illness. Your crazy racing thoughts become all about your crazing racing thoughts. Or whether or not your thoughts are actually crazier than usual. You get back into the vicious cycle. And then, without noticing, you lose yourself and become Bipolar.
But Bipolar Disorder is a treatable illness. Chronic, yes. But treatable. Allowing your whole identity to become wrapped up in it, would be a mistake. Unfortunately since it is not a physical illness but a mood disorder, it is often difficult for sufferers to distinguish normal from ‘not’ normal. It becomes confusing to figure out what your real emotions are and when you are overreacting. And people who don’t have Bipolar Disorder find it even more difficult to understand.
As long as we remember that having Bipolar Disorder does not define us. We are mothers, fathers, workers, children, brothers, teachers, writers. We are PEOPLE, first.
How do you feel about your ‘labels’?