I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a lot of guilt surrounding my bipolar illness.
I feel like, because it is a mental illness, it is in my mental capacity to control it. I feel like it is therefore my fault that I am ill. I often think that when I am behaving bizarrely or inappropriately I should punish myself. After all, it is ‘all in the mind’.
Even though I have these guilt ridden thoughts, part of me knows that I am being unfair on myself. Why would I behave in such strange ways that alienate people and make them think badly about me if I could help it? Bipolar happens when chemicals in your brain stops functioning properly. There is a strong genetic link with bipolar and it often runs down the generations. This genetic vulnerability together with some environmental factors determine whether or not you will fall ill. For example stress can trigger an episode.
The things people say about mental illness perpetuate my feelings of guilt. People talk about ‘being strong’, ‘pushing through your illness’ and ‘doing things to help yourself’. I am not weak. I am strong just to survive through this illness every day. If ‘normal’ people could feel what I feel they would realise how much this illness wears you down and makes you not want to have to struggle anymore. To not be alive. There is only so much you can do to help yourself. You can identify and try to prevent ‘triggers’ for getting ill and avoid stress. You can try relaxation methods and other methods of meditation. However, sometimes an episode just hits you out from nowhere and there is no controlling it.
I think that if people learnt more about bipolar, they would understand that you aren’t to blame. This is why the #timetotalk campaign is important. I don’t want to have to feel judged and guilty anymore.