I have recently seen several articles/blogs/etc that discussed whether or not mental health disorders, and particularly Bipolar Disorder, are becoming trendy. Now, let me clarify. My rant is not against the authors. They were tackling the subject just as I am here, and every one that I've read thus far completely disagreed with the "trendy" hypothesis. But, the fact that the possibility even requires myth busting, to me, is absolutely absurd.
As someone who's had a mood cycling condition since birth, let me share some insight. When I was as young as two years old, I used to have "episodes", which I now understand were hypomania, and beg my parents "make it stop, make it stop", unable to express more than that - because I was TWO. And on the off chance that you've never, ever met a two year old, I assure you, they're completely unaware of whether or not they're hip.
It took me 28 years to be diagnosed, including numerous therapists - and therapist bills - broken relationships and friendships, a divorce, and a brief hospitalization thanks to the sneaky staff at the ER who made me sign forms during a manic episode, whose implications they never explained to me (i.e. I was committing myself "voluntarily", which is a pretty impressive feat when you're not told what the forms actually mean and are too sick to read the 10 pages worth of them). The hospital doctors insisted on misdiagnosing me and giving me the wrong meds which only made me sicker.
When I came out of the hospital after much convincing of the staff, I was finally diagnosed correctly by my therapist. I was put on the correct medication and for weeks was sicker than sick, not able to leave the couch because of constant vertigo and nausea which I now know as side effects of my meds. I have to take these meds three times a day, quite possibly for the rest of my life. I have to have blood tests every six weeks to make sure I'm not poisoning myself by way of medication that's supposed to help and to make sure I'm not at risk of having seizures from the drop in sodium that they cause.
Every single day, I wake up not knowing if I'll be hypomanic, painfully depressed and hopeless, or "normal" for lack of a better (and less hated) word. I have developed social anxiety because of my condition. It has at times made me so withdrawn that I don't want to leave my house, for fear of an episode hitting suddenly. I have trouble planning weekly activities because I don't know if I'm going to be too agitated in hypomania, or too depressed, to follow through with them on any given day.
And finally, the stigma. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone referred to as crazy or mental or delusional or "like they're bipolar", I'd be rich. I have to weigh every single person who comes into my life to determine if, when, and how I should tell them about my condition. I go through so many days feeling isolated and alone because I don't understand others and they don't understand me. I have to deal with the media circus and the ignorant people who think we should all be locked up with the key thrown away. And now, now I have to deal with people saying that we want to have mental illness? Are you f*&$ing kidding me? Who would put themselves through this, all day, every day for the rest of their lives? And what, possibly, could be "cool" about this? Because they think those of us with mental health conditions are artsy and creative? Well, maybe some of us have that. But maybe it's also an outlet we've developed - a way we can get out our emotion and feelings and frustration and hurt so we don't turn it on ourselves. It's not cool. It's life-saving.
I used to think that the worst thing that someone could say about my condition is that it was crazy. But I have been proven wrong, in fact. The worst thing someone could say about my condition is that it's trendy.