Bipolar Pride: Do We Need It?
There is this concept of “bipolar pride” or “borderline pride” or “mad pride” or “whatever-mental-illness pride.” I see it on people’s avatars, Facebook pages and whatnot. For some reason, people want to declare their bipolar and say they’re proud of it? I, for one, and not “proud” of bipolar and do not exhibit bipolar pride in any way.
Being Proud of Bipolar
I don’t think bipolar is anything to be proud of. Bipolar disorder is an illness. You didn’t ask for it; you can’t control it; you just got it. It’s like saying “brown eyes pride.” You’re proud of your genetics? If you say so. Not to mention the fact that there is no such this as “other illness” pride. When was the last time you hear of “cancer pride?”
Now, I may be proud of myself, proud of Natasha, and Natasha happens to have bipolar disorder, but that’s not nearly the same thing. I am not proud of the disease that afflicts me, I am proud of how I handle it.
Of course, I think people proclaim “bipolar pride” in attempt to defeat the shame that some people feel around bipolar disorder and mental illnesses. I get that. No one with bipolar disorder, or any mental illness, should feel ashamed. Again, it’s very much like being ashamed of brown eyes or cancer. It’s silly.
Bipolar Pride Is not the Opposite of Bipolar Shame
But bipolar pride is not the opposite of bipolar shame – acceptance is. And I believe once you truly come to accept bipolar disorder, or any mental illness, and feel secure in that acceptance, you no longer need to wear a “pride” banner. That “pride” banner is like screaming, “Accept me! Accept me!” when really you need to be worried about accepting yourself.
Because an illness – whether it be an overgrowth of dangerous cancer cells or bad circuitry in the brain – is nothing to be proud of. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just a thing. Just a thing about you. Instead of being proud of a thing, how about just being proud of you?
Because the more we place distance between ourselves and everyone else by proclaiming some sort of proprietary pride, the less likely we all are to see our similarities and realize that people all have things. Our thing just happens to be a brain disorder called bipolar.
So lose the catchy “bipolar pride” phrase and do the much harder work of educating everyone about the realities of mental illness. That’s what will break down barriers, not slogans.