Today’s guest post is by Curtis Hier. He is a 34-year public school teacher with bipolar I disorder. Today, Curtis discusses how we should strive for bipolar pride over just ending bipolar stigma.
Literature calling for an end to mental illness stigma has been abundant for the past 20 years, to little effect. It has been abundant online, too. End the Stigma was a popular blog with 36.4 K Twitter followers and 42,609 Facebook likes. The blog apparently had more than 17,000 hits. As a new bipolar blogger, I can only hope to reach stats like that.
But the posts have apparently ceased. The tweets are no longer. I see that with some bipolar or mental illness blogs. They go on hiatus. Or they just put an end to a good run. Perhaps a particular blogger is in a depressive episode. Or perhaps the successful blog and/or Twitter account was a prodigious achievement of someone in a manic episode.
Merely Ending Bipolar Stigma Doesn’t Work
Whatever the case might have been for this blog, I was eager to engage the person behind it. I’m still willing to engage with people who extoll the tired cliché of ending the stigma. Not in an attacking way, mind you. The point I wish to engage with is that we should be reaching beyond the goal of ending bipolar stigma. We should be building bipolar pride.
Bipolar stigma is indeed harmful. When I went back to work after an extended hospital stay, it was hard enough just to do my job without co-workers making it harder. Many people resist the treatment they should get because of the stigma.
Alec Baldwin’s character made this remark on NBC’s hit series 30 Rock:
“I believe that when you have a problem, you talk it over with your priest, or your tailor, or the mute elevator porter at your men’s club. Then you take that problem and you crush it with your mind vice.”
Let’s crush attitudes like that. They say the best defense is a good offense. Let’s be aggressively pro-bipolar!
Building Bipolar Pride
And what’s not to be proud of? Plato, Michelangelo, and Newton may have had bipolar disorder. Dickens, Twain, and Tolstoy probably had it. And painters Picasso and Pollack may have had it too. We’re in great company!
Many of us have rich and rewarding careers, some in the healthcare field. Others gain pleasure or profit from creative endeavors. Yes, we are known for our creativity.
Sometimes we are discriminated against, and we should absolutely fight back! After a manic episode that didn’t really affect work (I took sick leave), I was told where I could go and to whom I could speak. I was segregated in my workplace.
We are supposed to have the same rights as other protected classes of citizens. The Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 guaranteed it. Imagine an African American being told where to go. Actually, that did happen — to Rosa Parks. It still happens to those of us with mental illnesses. Mental illnesses aren’t as visible as physical disabilities, so judges and juries don’t decide for us very often. I fought bipolar stigma. I lost, but I fought it. We need to keep fighting and keep feeling proud of our lives. We need bipolar pride.
About the Author
Curtis Hier taught history in a public high school for 34 years. For the last decade, he was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. He feels lucky that his career survived. He has also recently retired from teaching. He has lots to say about his experiences and about issues concerning bipolar disorder. Check out his writings at The Bipolar Star and find him on Twitter at @theBipolarStar.
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