Thank You Congress

Like most ex-boyfriends would, mine will tell you I’m "crazy." One watched me jump out of a moving vehicle because he wouldn’t share his cheeseburger. I lit another’s shoes on fire when he got too drunk to walk me home after a night of bartending. And then there was the boyfriend who watched me simultaneously break both of my feet when I jumped off a two-story balcony after a night of heavy drinking thinking I was going to cannonball into a pool. I missed the pool.

As you can see, this is totally out of the “my girl be trippin’” realm.

I’m going to take this moment to issue an open apology to all of them. You see, this was before I was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder II and subsequently sought treatment. Apparently there are variations of this mental illness, of which, I have the one that doesn’t reach full psychotic or manic episodes. I have a feeling that the ex whom I tried to run down with my car would beg to differ on that, but I’m going to trust the professionals.

While I tend to make light of the impossible situations I find myself in, mental illness is absolutely no joke. My promiscuous tendencies and inability to control various impulses led to a very confused adolescent/young adult who only learned to cope through the abuse of drugs and alcohol, which in every instance worsened my already erratic and risky behavior. It was during my pregnancy and forced sobriety that I was finally able to come to terms with my condition and begin the search for a treatment plan that would best work for me and my new family.

I share this information with you, not to frighten you or reinforce the plethora of inaccurate and hurtful representations of the mentally ill but to raise your awareness; to abolish the stigma surrounding maladies such as depression (postpartum or otherwise,) borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.

Therapy and medication has largely helped in controlling my cycling between hypomanic and significantly depressive episodes but there are still instances in which my behavior raises questions or is misunderstood. I’ve always been hesitant to share this part of myself with those around me but therein lies the problem with mental illness; it lacks the very necessary open and unashamed conversation that would help society to better comprehend the daily struggles faced by not only those who suffer from mental illnesses but their families as well. Should I have continued to stay quiet about my disease then I am not doing my part to eliminate the social stigma surrounding the “crazy,” the “psychotic”, or the “insane.” If I can help shift society’s views by exposing my battle with bipolar disorder yet demonstrate my ability to function within the parameters of a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend, then perhaps others needn’t feel the need be embarrassed about mental illness.

Next week, Oct. 7th-13th, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. This awareness week was established by the U.S. Congress in 1990 in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Visit NAMI.org to learn more about the organization and how you can help support their mission.

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