We’ve all heard people say these things before.
“You know i’m bipolar.” “I always have mood swings, I’m bipolar.”
And it really grinds my gears when people self-diagnose themselves with a disorder that they really don’t know much about. Bipolar, OCD, “Manic”, and “
Not only does this continue to add to the stigma of mental health, but it also is a misrepresentation for the people that actually do have the diagnosis.
Here’s a few things you probably should know if you’ve found yourself describing yourself as such or if you aren’t quite sure. Before I get into it, I’d like to first define Bipolar Disorder.
There are two forms of Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar I and Bipolar II. I’ve created this chart with the Criteria to meet both diagnoses from the DSM-5 (The book of Diagnoses that Therapists and Doctors use to ensure you meet the criteria for a diagnosis).
What’s important to note here is that Manic Episodes most often impose on one’s life. They may not go to work, perform poorly in school, sever their relationships, etc. While Hypomania, on the other hand, the person is still able to function normally and complete their day-to-day responsibilities.
1. Mental Health Disorders are NOT adjectives
Even if you are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, you are not bipolar. You are a person with bipolar disorder. Calling yourself by the diagnosis takes away from who you are as a person. It also allows you to be defined by your diagnosis. And YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. This intricate detail, while yes may play a large role in your life, is only one of the many facets of who you are as an individual. Saying ‘she’s schizophrenic’ or ‘I’m bipolar’ are parts of the reason why there continues to be such a big stigma around mental health concerns. I encourage you to get into the habit of steering away from defining yourself by these kinds of words.
2. Mood Swings Are Normal
We as human beings naturally go through a range of emotions throughout the week. It makes sense to start your day being perfectly happy and serene, something happen and boom your upset, and by the end of the day you’ve had the opportunity to calm down and go back to feeling peaceful. It’s also okay to be sad when you harp on the memories of someone you’ve lost and then get to your lunch break and be very cheerful – go back to work and dread dealing with your coworkers and become irritable. These things are normal and part of human nature.
3. It’s Not You, Its Them
If you find yourself being more ‘moody’ when you’re around a particular person or group of people, but not so much when you’re in other environments and around different people, those are not mood swings and that is not bipolar disorder. That is called a toxic relationship. Never let anyone make you feel like you’re ‘crazy’ or something is wrong with you because you’re a bit more emotionally reactive when in their presence. So often, I hear women who believe they’re bipolar tell me about stories. The common trend is that those range of emotions only surface when they’re around their boyfriend, but when they’re with friends and family – the emotions tend to be pretty level. Their boyfriend may be telling them ‘you’re crazy’ and ‘you’re bipolar’ and at some start they even start believing it because in their mind its like, ‘wow, I do have these mood swings and I am always spazzing on you’. But NO, baby girl. It’s not you, its them.
4. Destigmatize Mental Illness
Imagine how it must feel to actually have a Bipolar diagnosis and no one around you really knows it, because you’ve been able to manage your symptoms and are getting the right treatment. You go around your friends and they talk about some day when they were ‘spazzing out on someone’ and say “i’m just bipolar, i’m convinced”. Imagine what that must feel like to know you’ve been managing this and haven’t even told your friends for fear of them thinking you’re ‘crazy’ and then they bring up these extreme and embarrassing stories and chalk up their actions to ‘being bipolar’. Do you think you’d want to then tell them you’re diagnosis? Do you think you’d feel comfortable venting to those friends about the symptoms you’re feeling one day? Or do you think you’d just continue hiding it from them for fear of being judged? Do you think you’d wonder ‘wow, that’s what yall really think of me?’ when you hear these stories? I encourage you to think about how the things you say can impact the people around you, because you never know what they’re dealing with behind closed doors!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!