Being Open About Bipolar
I am bipolar.
I can still remember the day I told everyone I know – not just that I was bipolar (which came as a surprise to many), but that I was currently suffering so badly from the symptoms of my illness that I had to be hospitalized.
I had just been taken to my room by one of the nurses. I looked around me, took a deep breath, and made a decision. I could keep hiding the tarnished bits of myself, and for the next few weeks post nothing anywhere on social media about where I was or what I was doing – or I could finally be honest, tell the truth, wait for the dust to settle, and find out who my real friends were. I took out my iPad and posted the following on Facebook for everyone to see:
“Mental illness shouldn’t be something we’re afraid to talk about. But if no one else wants to, I will.
I have bipolar disorder and as a result I often have suicidal thoughts. Today it got really bad and I was admitted to the psychiatric wing of the hospital. It’s the first time for me, and it’s scary. But what scares me more is what happens to all those people who don’t get the help they need. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things. We shouldn’t be afraid of what people will think if they find out we’re ‘crazy.’ We shouldn’t be, but we are.
Time to change that. Start talking. Start listening. Start helping. And stop judging.”
It was scary. And I found out very soon which of my friends cared and which didn’t. The answer surprised me.
All of them.
I never caught even a whiff of negativity. More people than I can count reached out with words of love and support, or to share their own experiences with mental illness. I honestly couldn’t believe the response. I felt (and still feel) so lucky to have such wonderful, supportive friends and family.
For the month that I was hospitalized, I continued to share my experience on social media, mostly Facebook. I posted photos, updates, and even a lighthearted FAQ on life in the psychiatric ward. I shared all the things people wouldn’t know about unless they’ve experienced them firsthand.
I talked about the programs, the food, my interactions with staff and patients – everything. I shared photos of my room, some of our educational materials, and my weekend activities. (Through all of this I was respectful of my fellow patients’ privacy and posted no photos or identifying information about any of them).
I enjoyed plenty of visits from family and friends, and made new friends as well. Above all, I learned some very important lessons on opening up about mental illness.