Myth #1: You can tell when a person has bipolar.
Living with bipolar is not as different or as out of control as you may think. Sure there are parts of bipolar that are more extreme and emotional, but for the most part living with bipolar is not that outwardly apparent. I remember first getting back to work after my diagnosis and thinking about how everyone will notice I’m bipolar now…untrue. In fact most people were surprised when I told them. I know this is not the case for everyone, but what I’m trying to say is it’s not always so easy to tell that someone has a mental illness.
Myth #2: Bipolar is easy to control once you are diagnosed.
It is better knowing you have bipolar so you can be more aware of moods, but by no means is it easy to control. For me at this point in my life, it’s mainly about battling intrusive thoughts. And when I say intrusive, I mean thoughts that feel like they’re knocking on my mind’s door and demanding my attention. I find myself on a daily basis juggling a few different negative and pervasive thoughts that can easily take over my mood if I don’t catch them. Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten so much better at handling these thoughts, but still to this day I struggle with my inner voice.
Myth #3: People with bipolar aren’t as good at cooperating, living, and working with others.
When I’m around people is when I feel most at ease. I love people so much and I enjoy connecting with them, which is why my job is so perfect. I am constantly around people and it gets me out of my own mind and into the moment. Working with others is easy for me and I prefer it to being alone. And just because I am good at it doesn’t mean everyone with bipolar is. Having bipolar is independent from the ability to be with other people. For example, I know many people who do not have bipolar who are terrible with people.
The thing it, I can’t always be around others. No one can – it’s not healthy. Alone time is vital, but it’s difficult to face my mind’s tornado of thoughts so I avoid being alone. Within the last year or so meditation has helped calm me so much and I now feel much more comfortable alone. I do not think I could live by myself at this point in my life, though.
Myth #4: Once diagnosed with bipolar, that will be the primary focus of your life.
Focusing on bipolar has helped my life tremendously, but it is not the primary focus. The majority of the time, I am mentally healthy. With bipolar, you can experience an episode (lasting 2 weeks or more) of depression or mania. But when I’m mentally healthy, which is the majority of the time, I feel more in control of my thoughts and mood. But even when I’m healthy, I struggle almost daily with pervasive thoughts. These thoughts can range. “Why can’t I control my mood better?” “I am not capable of doing a good job at (xyz).” “(Person) must be mad at me for something I did.” “How could I let this happen again?”
These thoughts are often untrue and biased by my inner critic. I am continuing to work on letting these thoughts pass without engaging them. My technique these days is to literally drop the thought like it’s hot lava as soon as I become aware of it and focus my attention back to what I was doing. It’s something that I live with and must face daily but it’s not my whole life.
Myth #5: Bipolar is all in your head.
I sometimes feel silly talking so much about thoughts because they are not tangible. To be fair, bipolar is not tangible. But just because you can’t touch something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist (ex. arthritis, endometriosis, radio waves, oxygen, God, I could keep going). You can’t see bipolar, but it’s real and thoughts truly do influence not only mood but how your body feels. When feeling manic, my body feels super energized and almost invincible. I feel taller, I feel stronger and I feel light on my feet. When I’m depressed, I feel like I’m carrying around a huge bag of sand, I’m tired, agitated, and uncomfortable. There are both physical, chemical and mental factors that work together to make bipolar.
**Go back to the first sentence under Myth #5…stigmas like this make people feel silly talking about real shit sometimes. I’m done feeling silly!
Myth #6: Bipolar can be controlled naturally without medication.
I’m talking specifically about bipolar I disorder here because there are variances on the mood spectrum of course and I don’t want to make a blanket statement about medicine because that would be unfair and untrue. Bipolar is a medical illness that requires medical attention to address the imbalance in your body. Medication is necessary to relieve symptoms and heal. If someone was having an asthma attack, you wouldn’t say “just take deep breaths, you don’t need your inhaler” or to someone with diabetes “you’ll be fine, you don’t need insulin”. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard online or when I mention depression, “have you tried essential oils? or try meditating! or try yoga, it worked for me!” To those of you with mental illness who have heard that, remember that these people are not dealing with a mental illness and have not a clue to what works for your body and with your diagnosis. There’s nothing wrong with any of the above mentioned, but in place of medicine? For me that would be disastrous. Without medicine, I honest to God don’t know where I’d be right now. The medicine I take (Lamictal and Lithium) have improved my quality of life tremendously and I am able to work and be a productive human like I want to because of it.
IMPORTANT: Medication is not the only factor here – medicine and therapy are what did the trick for me and many others that I know who are living a healthy life with bipolar.
This being said, I know many people who are anti-medicine and I understand that sentiment to an extent because nowadays medicine is over-prescribed and we all know it. But when it comes to treating a medical illness, a proper doctor who takes the time to get to know you and taking medicine is necessary. If you have bipolar I disorder and are not taking medication, I’d love to hear ways in which you stay healthy and how it works for you.
Myth #7: People with bipolar are unpredictable and shouldn’t be trusted.
Naturally I do like to switch things up a lot, but that doesn’t make me unpredictable or out of control. When it comes to trust, I think those closest to me can agree that I could be trusted with the government’s deepest darkest secrets if I had to be. Just because a person has bipolar doesn’t mean they are untrustworthy. Trust is a part of your character, bipolar is not. Bipolar symptoms should not be confused with who a person is.
I wanted to talk to you about this because I think it’s important to end stigmas and realize how misunderstood bipolar is. But more than that it’s important to realize that my life is not that different than yours just because I have bipolar. Everybody must deal with their own struggles; no one is immune to the perils of life.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Comment below and let me know what your life is like with or without bipolar. Let’s talk about it.
If you’d like help dealing with your own inner critic, message me and we can talk about ways to heal.