This weekend I was at a party, and started speaking to a group of people I didn’t know very well. We got onto the subject of one their friends, who was being accused of faking Bipolar. They felt that she was attention seeking, and were scathing about her behaviour. Then came the inevitable conversation about the status of Bipolar in society. One girl chimed in and had this to say,
“Well everyone these days is Bipolar, because it’s ‘in’ and fashionable.” There were nods of agreement. The very idea of this notion makes my blood boil. I decided it was time to speak up, and educate these people who seemed ignorant of what having Bipolar really means,
“I have Bipolar. It took twelve years for me to be diagnosed. It’s not fashionable, in fact it’s terrifying and debilitating at times.” I went onto to tell them about this blog, and how my post 101 Things Nobody Tells you about Bipolar would be particularly helpful for them to read. The conversation was quickly moved on.
To me, Bipolar will never be fashionable. It’s a life long severe mental illness that takes effort and determination to live with and even more work and drive to find some form of stability. People seem to hold onto the idea that Bipolar can make you seem more interesting; that others will see you as edgy and vibrant, or brooding and mysterious. It’s infuriating that there are people playing make believe because they want their lives to seem more exciting. All this does is add to the stigma. It’s harmful to those that are actually suffering and trying to reach or maintain good mental health. I find it insulting that people would go to such extremes and use an illness I live with to impress others.
I would do almost anything to trade Bipolar for stability. It is beyond me why anyone would romanticise or glamourise this illness, or purposefully want it. Mania, or the idea of it, seems to be the most enticing notion. Some people want to be the life of the party, and go on epic adventures, and see mania as an excuse for this. The difference between being confident and exuberant and mania is stark. I talk about it in the post Bipolar: The difference between feeling good and mania I often say that Bipolar is an explanation for some of my behaviour, but never an excuse.
The reason seemingly more people are now diagnosed with Bipolar is not because it’s fashionable, but because there is more awareness. According to Bipolar UK 2% of the population in the UK have a lifetime prevalence of Bipolar, so the idea that ‘everyone has Bipolar’ is untrue. As a teenager, I was fairly ignorant about mental illness, whereas teens now seem to be much more clued up on the subject. Even though stigma is still prevalent, we are able to talk more openly and society as a whole is becoming more aware.
From the conversation I had on Saturday though, there is still a long way to go in terms of education about Bipolar and mental illnesses. People are quick to judge and repeat stigmatising myths they’ve heard surrounding conditions. The media in particular have a duty to publish articles that are informative and accurate and do not glamourise mental illness. One of the reasons Bipolar is seen as fashionable is because celebrities are being honest about their condition and people want to emulate them. If you want life to be more exciting do something about it, but don’t fake an illness. If you see it as in fashion you are not aware of what Bipolar really is; a disorder that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. It can harm, destruct and kill in all it’s forms. It is most definitely not a fashion statement.