It is usually presented in the opposite way – I Am Not Bipolar, I Have Bipolar – which includes the argument that calling someone bipolar is like calling someone cancer.
A recent comment from our http://www.bipolaradvantage.com website prompted a great reply from one of our volunteers. I think he really put it in the Bipolar Advantage perspective.
“Thank you for contacting us. You are certainly not your disorder, but you need not have bipolar in disorder at all. The argument you present has been floating around for a long time. The way we look at it is that I am six feet tall, weigh 185 pounds, am male, gay, and bipolar. I am bipolar because I have a wide range of highs and lows, which makes bipolar a description of me just like my height and sexual preference.
I do not have the flu, a cold, or bipolar disorder, which are all illnesses, so I would not want to be identified as any of the illnesses just because I temporarily had them. I have Bipolar IN Order, which is not an illness at all. I am proud to be identified with being bipolar just as I am proud to be identified with being gay. They used to try to say being gay was a mental illness too.
Without the difference between Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar IN Order, it makes sense to lump bipolar as a trait in with bipolar disorder the illness. Bipolar itself is not an illness at all and nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, those of us who have Bipolar IN Order see it as a tremendous advantage over those incapable of experiencing as wide of a range as we can.
Although it is an interesting semantical debate, it has little to do with what we do at Bipolar Advantage. We teach people how to make bipolar work for them instead of trying to make it go away, which is not possible anyway unless you are willing to be a zombie for the rest of your life. It would be like cutting off your head because you do not want to be associated with being six feet tall (or have not learned to duck when going through five foot high openings).
Have you signed up for our free concepts course yet? I think once you take it you will understand the difference and soon will be proud to tell others that you are bipolar too. In a way, arguing that you are not “bipolar disorder” is reinforcing the false notion that bipolar must only be seen as an illness, which is a major source of the stigma associated with it and the despair that those with the bipolar disorder diagnosis feel.”
Please understand that we do recognize Bipolar Disorder as a terrible condition that needs to be treated. Some misrepresent what we say as advocating letting bipolar run unchecked, but nothing could be further from the truth. Getting Bipolar IN Order takes a serious commitment. I often say it is the hardest thing you will ever do, except for one thing: not doing it. Leaving bipolar in the disordered state makes life hell for everyone.
What do you think? Are you Bipolar? Or do you have Bipolar?
Man in the mirror photo available from Shutterstock.
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Finding Your Identity in Disorder is an Impediment to Good Health (April 26, 2012)
Last reviewed: 26 Apr 2012