I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 16, but I've struggled with it since I was nine. I've lived long enough with it to know the ins and outs of the mental illness. The minute the word "bipolar" is thrown out there, people freeze because their first reaction is that we're stupid or dangerous, and that's just not the case. From someone who has had these misconceptions thrown at me just because of what I struggle with, I'm here to set the record straight for myself, and everyone else who battles bipolar disorder.
1. We have two different personalities
Bipolar disorder is much different than schizophrenia or other personality disorders, which it is commonly confused with. With bipolar, the only thing that's split is your emotions — NOT personalities. In the diagnosis, there are two main emotions covered that are the same (for the most part) with all individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder. However, we don't have two little voices in our heads telling us to do different things, and that's actually also the case for anyone else who struggles with something very similar.
2. We're "weirder" than other mental illnesses
Technically, bipolar disorder is classified as a mental disability, which gives unfair connotations as to what the illness really is. Just because our struggle is labeled as something different than others doesn't mean we're weirder or more troubled.
3. We're confined to just two emotions
Yes, the name bipolar makes it seem that people who are diagnosed with it are only able to feel two emotions. That is one of the most untrue assumptions of the illness. There are two main emotions that we "swing" from. Depending on the type of bipolar (yes, there are multiple types), one can swing from manic to depressed, and hypomanic to depressed. However, those aren't the only emotions we feel. Much like everyone else, we feel happy, angry, sad, confused, overjoyed. But the two emotions that we feel the most deeply depends on the bipolar type.
4. Getting help is impossible
Like every other struggle in the world, help for bipolar does exist and is extremely helpful. However, help for bipolar looks different than help for anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, and more. But, that goes for everything. There is no cure-all for different mental illnesses, and no matter what you struggle with, there is always help for you.
5. Bipolar doesn't have any variations
Bipolar comes in two different forms: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. The main difference between the two are the severity of symptoms, as one can be more intense than the other. It's important to remember that bipolar isn't just one diagnosis with the same side effects across the board. Yes, there are a set of symptoms that are pretty universal, but every person is different.
6. Bipolar makes us dangerous
Every mental illness has its ups and downs. The severity of your feelings plays into your health for sure. However, just because we have a diagnosis that seems more intense than others doesn't mean we're uncontrollable and crazed.
7. We don't know how to function in relationships
People with bipolar disorder are as worthy of love as everyone else. The ways we love may look a little different from other people, but that doesn't mean that we can't be in happy, healthy, and thriving relationships. The most important thing to remember is that it may take patience, but when we love, we love hard.
8. We can't communicate
Just because people with bipolar don't necessarily have the most healthy way of communicating off the bat doesn't mean that it's impossible for us or that we can't learn how to communicate better. That's where things like therapy and medication come in. With the right tools, we're able to sharpen our communication skills just like anyone else can with hard work and determination.
9. We're more high maintenance
Because of the intense emotions that are caused by bipolar swings, it's easy to assume that everything we do requires more work. However, that's not true. To be fair, yes, emotions come and are felt hard, but that doesn't mean we need to be babied or pitied. All we ask is that you treat us with the same respect and dignity as everyone else because we are like everyone else.
10. We're always aware of our actions
Bipolar blackouts are a real thing. During a blackout, it's hard or even impossible for us to remember details of a situation or even the situation itself. That being said, the important thing to keep in mind when dealing with someone in a blackout is to be kind, patient, and give us space until it passes.
11. Medication and therapy is a cure-all
No matter what you're taking or who you're talking to, bipolar tendencies are going to come up. Granted, if you're actively taking care of your illness, the chances of blackouts or outbursts are significantly lessened — which is why it is crucial to take care of yourself. No person struggling with bipolar likes how they act in the middle of their illness. In fact, we're the most frustrated with ourselves because dealing with bipolar can seem impossible. The most important thing a bipolar person can do for themselves is take care of themselves because that's where true healing begins.