Why People Forget that Bipolar Disorder Is a Physical Illness
From time to time, even I, mental health writer and speaker, have forgotten that bipolar disorder is a physical illness. Well, I don’t forget, exactly, but I have acted like it wasn’t physical with my actions in my own life. But how could I act like mental illness (which I even call brain disorders) isn’t physical? Why would I ever forget that bipolar disorder is a physical illness?
Bipolar Disorder Wants You to Believe It’s “All in Your Head”
I think part of the reason that people forget that bipolar disorder is a physical illness is because of the bipolar disorder itself. Bipolar disorder is a big liar and it wants you to think that it’s your fault and that it’s all in your head. And even if our conscious, wise and knowledgeable minds know differently, bipolar’s voice can be awfully convincing now and then.
People Want You to Think Bipolar Isn’t a Physical Illness
And then there are all the other people who want you to think that bipolar disorder isn’t a physical illness. There are all the scientologists, all the antipsychiatrists and all the uneducated, just to name a few. These people have a vested interest in making you believe that bipolar isn’t physical. These people have a vested interest in making you believe that bipolar can be cured with vitamins or pseudo-therapy or religion. Sometimes these people are driven by money. Sometimes these people are driven by ignorance. Sometimes these people are simply driven by dramatic dogma. Whatever it is, these people will tell you, and even convince some, that bipolar disorder is not a physical illness.
How Could I Forget that Bipolar Disorder Is a Physical Illness?
For my part, as I said, I never forgot, really, but I acted, in my own life, like I didn’t understand the physical basis for bipolar disorder. I beat myself up for having bipolar. I begged a deity I didn’t believe in to fix my bipolar. I felt guilty for having bipolar. I felt like a lesser person because of having bipolar. I didn’t think I wasn’t good enough to be around others because of bipolar. All of these things suggested that bipolar disorder was somehow my fault and unlike all other physical illnesses – but, of course, it isn’t. Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder – physical – and my actions should betray that fact.
But, like I said, bipolar is a big liar and I am not immune to its effects. Just because I know otherwise, it doesn’t mean that other forces can’t convince me, for moments, that I’m a horrible, bad, no good, awful, weak, messed up person to exhibit the signs of this illness and not be able to “pick myself up by my bootstraps” and just get on with life.
It’s Natural to Have Moments Where Bipolar Disorder Doesn’t Seem Physical
In other words, I think it’s natural to forget that bipolar is a physical illness and act like you don’t believe it’s a brain disorder. I really do think that’s a natural thing considering the forces thrust upon us.
That said, I think it’s important to fight back against this. When we see ourselves doing something that suggests bipolar disorder isn’t physical – like beating ourselves up about bipolar – then we need to confront those feelings with logic and knowledge and remind ourselves that the brain can be sick, just like any other organ, and we just are unlucky enough to have that happen to us.
Perhaps you can read a bit here to help you remember. Or maybe there’s a book that helps you. Or maybe writing helps you. Or maybe doing art helps you. I don’t know. What I do know is that standing up to this idea is important because not believing that bipolar is a physical illness hurts us – and we already hurt enough already.
Header image by A Health Blog.
Inset image by Live Life Happy.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.