Rejection hurts for everyone, let’s be honest. Before I decided to self-publish my book, thirty two agents told me no. Yeah, it burned a bit, but I just redirected my energy into getting my book, There Comes a Light: A Memoir of Mental Illness, published on my own.
I was recently dumped via ghosting. Ghosting is the phenomenon of someone not responding to any communication we make. Example, I had a boyfriend for four months until he ghosted me. I called and waited for a response. I text and waited for a response. You get it. I never heard from him again.
It is very hard for me to date. Everyone always wants to know what I do. I tell them I blog about psychology. I am not ashamed of my bipolar disorder, but I do not want to give them a reason to not like me because stigma sucks. Since moving here a couple of years ago, I must be the queen of first dates. Somehow or another, I have to explain that I write about bipolar disorder because I live with the illness. One of my dates had the audacity to Google search at the table on our date. Others have said “tell me, tell me! I can handle it.” Aaaahhh, obviously you could not.
We live with the heavy burden of carrying around stigma. I HATE STIGMA. It is no friend of mine. It allows people to put us in a box and label us. We probably share some similar traits but we are not exactly alike when it comes to how we live with bipolar disorder. Maybe you are more manic than I am, maybe I sleep more than you do, maybe you can work more hours than me, and maybe I think more about suicide. We may be similar or we may be worlds apart. Our bipolar disorder is not a one-size-fits-all illness. The properly educated know we live with mania (our ‘ups’) and depression (our ‘downs’). They know it is a roller coaster which can be hard to travel on. But even though I am a member of this bipolar disorder club, I do not claim to know your journey. It could be because I am living it myself that I hate stigma so much. In my experience, most people do not want to date someone living with bipolar disorder because they are misinformed about the illness. They have been spoon fed images of bipolar disorder that are unrealistic if not rare. We have all seen some movies depicting our illness and can take it and see where bits of it are true to us and that some bits are not. But if you are an outsider, ignorant of our mood disorder, you are going to take one look at us and our label , “Bipolar Disorder,” and believe we are all the same.
It is here that we can break the stigma cycle and enlighten people, up to our comfort level, what “Bipolar Disorder” really is and what it feels like for us to live it. Knowledge is power. Tell them about some of the most misunderstood facts and answer any questions you are able to, but make it clear that we each experience bipolar disorder differently. Stigma is like saying that people with red hair are the same. Noooo, maybe they are fair skinned, but this is not true of all redheads. So, to say that someone with bipolar disorder gets angry and throws things is also not true of all of us who live with bipolar disorder.
It is not your responsibility to educate the masses, but if you can share your knowledge, that which only you – a person living with a mental mood illness – can, then maybe we could get rid of some stigma.