I still felt embarrassed and ashamed, but I also felt guilty.
Objectively speaking I had a great life filled with great people and lots of opportunities so I had no right to be depressed. I felt like a self-indulgent brat. During that year all of us nursing students had our mental health nursing clinical placement. I was assigned to an acute in-patient facility for adults. Being suicidal while looking after suicidal patients was not the best experience and I left that placement terrified that I would become a psychiatric patient. I had the same depressed thoughts as the people who were hospitalized so I reasoned that if I told anyone about how I was truly feeling then I would end up in a locked ward.
However, when I was twenty I reached out to my lecturer for help. My lecturer referred me to the university psychologist and I was diagnosed with depression. I still kept everything quiet. Mum asked me what I wanted her to tell everyone to explain my absence while in hospital?
The amount of relief I felt after telling everyone was immense and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Not once have I had a negative experience as a result of being open about having bipolar.
Instead, people have been receptive, engaged and overwhelmingly supportive. Not only that, being open about my mental health has changed the direction of my career and led to career opportunities.
For eight years self-stigma kept me quiet, which I find funny because I never stigmatized others who had mental illness. Instead I empathized with them, but I could never treat myself with the same level of compassion. I was lucky to get help when I did, but I still sometimes wonder what would have happened if I got help at fourteen. Now I am a Youth Presenter for a mental health organization and I deliver presentations about mood disorders to high school students.
9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
This is one of my favourite presentations because one of the aims is to encourage students to get help early if they feel they are struggling — something I wish someone had told me when I was fourteen. The most recent one I delivered was to a group of year 9s. I feel heaps better. Thank-you so much! At fourteen I was feeling isolated and alone because of my own self-stigma. But this girl was surrounded by all of her school friends and she was smiling and proud. Hearing and seeing this gave me the best feeling the world.
I nearly cried. How have you managed to get a degree and be working as a nurse in an emergency department? I used to be a nurse in this way.
Living With the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder
I now have Bipolar and I am not well enough to work in any capacity. I have frequent relapses into hospital and severe symptoms. Bipolar and medication for it has caused me to have low mental functioning and extrememly low memory. But I try my best to deal with it for the most part. Like everything else about the disorder it will depend on you. Typically, only a few close friends are told.
Ones that you trust and can envision being in your life for years. Some might even become part of your support group.
Why should we care about stigma?
Letting even your best friend into your deeply personal life involves emotional risks. Sometimes, open and honest conversation is truly for the best. As you probably already know, stress can be a trigger for a manic or depressive episode. Eliminating and managing stress is a helpful tool that can help reduce your bipolar symptoms. Some people find telling their family about their bipolar diagnosis is more difficult than informing bosses and friends.
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The same article also reviewed 17 studies conducted in Europe, Israel and across North America. When and who you tell in your family is entirely up to you. Some people are comfortable talking to their parents about this disorder, and other state that they are the last people they want to tell.
It all depends on who you feel comfortable with and trust. Actually, trust is extremely important. The last thing you probably want is to become the main topic of conversation at family get togethers. Choosing which family members can be daunting. Some tips that might help you decide who in your family might be able to provide support without becoming overbearing are,.
Something else to consider is an in-law. They might not have been around your entire life, but they are still a family member. Sometimes, they can be less judgement. However it is still important for you to trust them and feel comfortable reaching out whenever you need support. Overbearing friends and relatives can take a toll, along with the feeling that you are being treated differently than others.
This also applies to co-workers and management. The best way to finally end the stigma associated with bipolar is with education. You can make a difference in how people view you. But you can fight self-stigma. You can feel good about yourself even though you have bipolar disorder. As philosopher Dr. Wayne Dyer said:. Also, remember not everyone feels negatively about those with mental illness, and those are the people you need in your life. Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD. All Rights Reserved. According to Dictionary.