Giving people choices

Giving people choices is mainly what this whole web site is about.

If you do not yet have a bipolar diagnosis then you have a choice of trying to get the diagnosis or avoiding it. It may sound strange that people want to be diagnosed. The thing is that when we get desperate it can seem that almost any diagnosis is better than having one professional after another look at you and say, “We have no idea what is wrong with you.” Or “We cannot understand why that medication didn’t work for you. Let’s try this new one.”

There are only so many times you can hear this before you want someone to say they know what is wrong and that they have a plan for you.  A Community Psychiatric Nurse told me, “If you are going to get a mental health diagnosis then the best one to have is bipolar disorder.” I suspect this was not an official view, but certainly it is a common view when looking at a choice between; bipolar, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. Bipolar disorder has a lot of stigma attached but nothing like those other illnesses. I interviewed a man who had been physically attacked when his neighbours discovered that he had a schizophrenia diagnosis. Fortunately this does not seem to happen with bipolar (well I have not heard of it in the UK)

In the media we see many examples of rich and famous people who:

  • have been diagnosed with bipolar
  • are said to have bipolar disorder even though they have no such diagnosis
  • and some who may say they are a bipolar type of person with little evidence of any disorder

A lot of these people seem to be doing OK. Even those who struggled for a while often seem to be doing okay again. All this celebrity bipolar can make it seem like an OK thing to have. I am hearing, “Bipolar, that is the latest celebrity ‘must have’.”

The biggest impact of seeing bipolar celebrities is likely to be on young people who are yet to see close up how awful it can be for those who have been diagnosed. Very few people are lucky enough to be diagnosed and then be able to claim to have ‘Bipolar Lite’ – the variety that gives you the creative, energetic, humorous edge with not so many of the dark days and destructive flings. Stephen Fry must be one of the most famous bipolar people. He is open and honest about having problems however, what most of us see is the cheerful confident and competent Stephen. It is not his fault but it all adds to the illusion (or delusion) that bipolar is not so bad and a diagnosis could be a way to a better life for those who have struggled with depression and changeable moods.

If you have avoided the diagnosis so far, you have a choice, you can start finding out how people control their moods. Start talking to people who have been through the bipolar thing and come out the other side. How did they eliminate their disorder? If they have also eliminated their diagnosis, how did they do this? What they did will give you clues for avoiding the diagnosis in the first place.

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