The Stigmas Surrounding Bipolar Disorder

The Stigmas Surrounding Bipolar Disorder

I'm still me, my diagnosis doesn't change that

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Although there has been progressed conversation surrounding the topic of mental illness, it isn't a secret that many disorders are still highly stigmatized. With lack of knowledge comes misunderstanding, and with misunderstanding comes fear and stigmas. I never felt the true strength of these stigmas until I was diagnosed with one of these disorders.

I'll be straightforward: I have Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar I to be exact. I've always suspected I did, but was never officially diagnosed until recently, which honestly didn't come as much of a surprise. But what did come as a surprise was the reactions I received from opening up about my diagnosis.

The first stigma I experienced was people questioning if I even have Bipolar Disorder. I don't know how many people have actually thought I was joking or just being overdramatic when I told them.

"I feel like you're just exaggerating."

"Are you sure you aren't just moody? Just control your moods, it isn't that hard."

No, I'm not exaggerating; I have a medical diagnosis. No, I'm not "just moody" and I sure as hell can't just switch off my mood swings. I can't just "relax," I can't just "get over it." Bipolar Disorder is as much of an illness as any other mental illness, it isn't something I can just wish away.

The second stigma I experienced was people actually becoming scared of me. Even though I haven't changed, as soon as people find out that I have Bipolar Disorder the way they treat me changes. Bipolar Disorder is viewed as so abnormal, that those who are diagnosed are labeled as "other" and placed into a very small box that society has created. They're feared, they're looked down on.

"Bipolar people are dangerous, you don't seem dangerous."

No, I'm not dangerous, having Bipolar Disorder does not automatically make you a danger to others. To be honest, I'm more of a danger to myself than to anyone else. I haven't changed, this disorder has always been there. But once society places that label on me, I'm viewed in an entirely different light, even to people who have known me for most of my life.

The most important thing people need to realize is, like Depression and Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder exists on a spectrum. It's not the same for everyone. I've noticed that when people think "Bipolar" they have a distinct schema in their mind that everyone who has it acts the same way, and that just isn't the case. There are different types, and the extremes affect everyone differently. Just like any other mental illness, it is different for everyone.

We have come a long way in understanding and accepting the validity of mental illness, but many stigmas still exist on some disorders that society views as "severe." And I believe this stems from lack of knowledge. I don't tell people I have Bipolar Disorder because I want them to feel sorry for me or to be scared of me, but rather I think it's important to try and educate people so those stigmas can begin to be erased. Bipolar Disorder is very real and very scary, but it shouldn't be scary to those who don't have it.

My disorder does not define who I am, and I refuse to let society make me feel that way. I'm still me, my diagnosis doesn't change that.

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Sorry I'm A Size 00

But I'm not really sorry.
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My whole life I've been thin — which is kind of an understatement.

Every time I go to the doctor I get the same “you're underweight" lecture that I've heard every year since I was able to form memories. I've never really felt insecure about my weight, I love being able to eat everything and not gain a single pound. Since my freshman year of high school, I've probably only gained 8 pounds and I'm now a sophomore in college.

Of course, in school, there were rumors that I was anorexic or bulimic, but everyone who knew me knew that was far from the truth. I'm now 19, 5'2, and I still have yet to break 100 pounds on the scale. It seems that there is a lot of skinny shaming going around and to me, one of the main contributors to that is the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this because skinny girls get all the praise and other body types are neglected. That's really not true, though. While loving other body types, you are tearing down skinny girls. Why is it OK to do that to skinny girls but not to other body types? Why is it OK to say “only dogs like bones" or say “every body type is beautiful" until you see a model's abs, or ribs, or thigh gap and then tear them down because they're “unnaturally" skinny?

The point I'm trying to make is that, as a naturally skinny girl, I have never shamed anyone for their body type, yet I go every day and get at least two comments about my weight. I'm always the skinny girl, the toothpick, but I'm not Jessica.

Yeah, I'm a size 00. Get over it.

If you have an issue with my body and feel like my body is disgusting to you, don't look at it. I know that I'm healthy and I don't need your input when my body just naturally burns calories fast. I don't have an eating disorder and never have.

I am real beauty though, and I know that because I'm comfortable in my own skin.

So, maybe the real issue is that we as a society have been shoving certain body types down our daughters' throats so they begin to romanticize models that have certain standards that they have to meet, who work hard for the bodies that they have, and are making a hell of a lot more money than most of the people discussing why they look emaciated while what they're actually looking at is the photoshopped product.

I'm not going to apologize for being skinny when that is just how my body is, I can't help it.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria's Secret Untouched

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

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Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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