Addressing Negative Comments
I normally address the comments in a few different ways – either explaining the condition, discussing why I do actually need medication in order to keep myself stable (and that it’s not "all in my mind"), and pointing out a few mental health statistics (for example, one in four of us will at some point in our lives be affected by a mental health issue, and one million people die annually across the globe as a result of suicide).
Or, I believe most powerfully of all, I tell my story.
This is one of the most powerful methods I’ve found of coping with mental health stigma, and one that allows you to really go into detail. Going through with people what happened to me, from my manic episodes cycling back to crashing depression, all peppered with psychosis, gives a personal perspective on how it feels to suffer with a mental illness. Putting it in direct words like this often helps people to understand things on a more basic level, as they can connect emotionally with the person telling the story, and begin to open their mind to the possibility that there are mental health issues that need addressing.
When running through discussions with people, I always try to stick to the science. I’ve done a fair bit of research into my condition and if necessary, I throw out some facts and figures, or some quotes from well respected researchers, doctors, and scientists. For example, it has been confirmed that there is evidence for susceptibility to bipolar disorder on chromosomes 18q and 22q, and that a gene located on chromosome 13q (gene G72/30 to be precise) plays a role in some afflicted by the disorder.
Don't Take It To Heart
As someone who takes every criticism as a direct attack, learning not to take everything to heart was a steep learning curve, and is definitely one that comes with practice. One thing I found that helped was finding online communities to reach out to – there were people going through the same things that I was, people that understood how I felt, and it gave me an opportunity to develop some strong friendship bonds that I could rely on in times of crisis.