In 2003 I was diagnosed with Bipolar. I had been through the depression and now was completely manic (thinking I had special powers). I ended up being sectioned and spent a month in hospital getting better.
I’ve experienced stigma associated with Bipolar in many different forms since I was diagnosed. I’ve written about some of these experiences below:
Returning to work
It took me 8 months to start to feel kind of normal again but my brain was still numb. I went back to work again and it was like walking on egg shells, the staff stared at me like I was an alien and didn't know what to say. I just ignored it but they had put someone else in my position which made me feel like crap and given me a desk right outside my boss' office. I wasn't a moron. I'd had a breakdown - you wouldn't treat someone differently if they had broken their leg and been off for a few months.
I started to enjoy my job and then the bullying started again and I thought “sod this I am off”. I do not want to be going down this route again so I walked out of my job without thinking of the consequences. I was always embarrassed of telling people that I had Bipolar as no-one back then had heard of it and I thought they may think I was a complete nutter.
I suffered a few more episodes, one which was particularly scary. I turned on my sister and accused her of being a murderer. I was pushing her aggressively and screaming at her. I think I scared the life out of her and she was also worried her kids. I ended up in a secure unit.
Unfortunately my sister confided her worries and fears to a friend which was probably the worst thing that could have happened. This particular person does not speak to me now and won't have anything to do with me. I remember about 8 months later I went down to school to see my nieces as a surprise.
The so called friend went mad at my sister and said “how dare you let your sister come down to the school”. She complained to the teachers and now if I go the teachers have to be warned that I am coming! Can you even begin to imagine how bad that makes me feel? I feel sad for these people who are so lacking in understanding or knowledge. I hope that her kids never have to experience what I have been through.
Another time I went for a job interview and I was getting on extremely well with the lady who was interviewing me. So I thought now is the time to be open and honest and I told her I had bipolar. She took it really well and said no worries I have friends that have this and they are fine. She said if this job doesn’t suit you we have other jobs that are in the company that would be good for you as I think you are great.
I left the interview feeling amazing as she said basically I had got the job. I got a call from the agency about a week later to say that I hadn't got the job because they thought it would be too stressful for me bearing in mind my condition. I was fuming so I rang the lady up but you guessed it she never got back to me. I was devastated.
Overall it has brought us closer together as a family
I have loads more examples of discrimination and stigma - I think the final straw is that I have now been refused life assurance cover because I have got bipolar.
Many people don't fully understand the condition and there is still a huge amount of ignorance about it. It would be great if we could educate staff at different companies about the different mental health conditions as I am sure more people suffer but do not disclose it as they are afraid of being judged.
Over the years I have gotten used to being bipolar and I'm aware it will always be a part of my life. I used to get really down about it and not want to talk about it but now I want to share my experience and try and to help other people in the same position. I used to say “why me?” but now people accept me for who I am.
My mum still gets emotional about it sometimes and looks for signs of a new episode. The trouble is that I am hyper anyway! Overall it has brought us closer as a family and my step dad and I now have an even stronger bond. He has been amazing and so supportive.
More money should be invested in educating people to increase understanding of mental illness so that we can reduce the stigma and discrimination. I am going to do everything in my power to make this happen so watch this space.