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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Monday, 17 February 2014

Depression and Benefits Street

I watched the first ten minutes of Channel 4's Benefit Street debate before I turned off in disgust. In hindsight I probably should have just boycotted the whole thing. After all, by watching it I am only adding to the viewing figures for channel 4. Oh well, lesson learnt.

Anyway, I heard one of the panellists (I think she was a writer for The Telegraph) say that White Dee (a well known personality on the programme Benefits Street who suffers from depression) didn't look like she was depressed. Apparently because she was seen to joke and smile sometimes on the documentary she couldn't possibly suffer from depression. Because depressed people must at all times look miserable. They can't possibly have a moment in the day where they smile. They can't possibly put on a mask in front of people, a brave face to the outside world.

It made me really angry because I too am capable of smiling and joking with friends even when inside I am in turmoil. Yes there are times when I can't bring myself to smile when something happens which should make me happy. But I am certainly capable at times of faking it. It take a huge amount of effort for sure but it is worth it so I can socialise as normal and not be judged.

There is still a huge stigma around mental health and people think that you must be making it up if you appear 'normal'. However, people are excellent actors and you should never take them completely at face value. People hide how they feel all the time for a number of reasons. In this case, probably because they want to avoid these kinds of cruel assumptions about the illness.

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