When it comes to disclosing that I have bipolar disorder I do not have reservations. I am forthcoming about my condition because I believe that until others are acquainted with the disorder the stigma will remain. Sadly, I am not as vigilant as I would like to be. It is easy to communicate my thoughts to others online. In a public setting, there is not much of an opportunity to bring up my illness in everyday conversation. Until I have the courage to post bipolar vlogs, get invited to verbalize my thoughts in a public forum, or travel the world to bring attention to my book that I may one day write, I will have to remain content with writing my little blog for the few people who somehow come across it by chance.
Yes, I get looks of horror from strangers when I say that I have a mental illness. Yes, I get looks of shock when I tell acquaintances and friends that I have bipolar disorder. Yes, I get looks of extreme denial when I talk to some members of my family. Most people are dumbfounded.
I find that the worse responses come from the people who feel as if they know me best. It is sad to know that the individuals who I believe should be the most supportive take the news in a negative fashion. They are judgmental and are not afraid to tell me that I do not have a problem. They feel that my condition is all in my mind and I have to change the way I think. I wish that it were that easy.
Be aware that when you inform others that you have a mental condition some of your family and friends may abandon you. You will get unwanted advice from many people about how to manage your disorder. Try not to listen to the negative things they will undoubtedly say. They will fill your head with insensitive, misguided advice.
Most people that you encounter may believe that a mental illness is entirely different than a physical one. The stigma about mental illness is due, in part, to the fact that the symptoms of a mental illness cannot be seen in the same manner as a physical condition. Most people refuse to recognize that a mental illness IS a physical illness; it is disorder of the brain.
Don't be afraid to disclose that you have a mental illness. Educate yourself about your condition so that you can teach others about it. If you have a disorder or have a loved one that has one, don't hide it from the world. Whenever I have talked about my illness, I have been pleasantly surprised when others tell me about their personal experience with mental illness or that of a loved one. Even though it feels like you are alone, you are not. If you speak up, you will be surprised that there are others that are just like you...