July 22, 2014

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Sara Says ... PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 8:00 PM

May is Mental Health Month. Even though it should always be the time, this month is especially dedicated to spreading awareness about mental illness and erasing the stigma associated with it.

I think my family (husband included) is finally starting to understand bipolar disorder a little better. For so long I felt like they thought I was making it up. It’s not like diabetes or cancer, where there’s a physician who can vouch for the symptoms. The symptoms in this case are highly subjective; my family can rely on the accounts of other people with the disorder and they can rely on me. I think with my explanation and the help of others in the media who are coming forward, people are beginning to understand mental disorders a little better.

It’s always bothered me that there has largely been a lack of understanding when it comes to mental disorders, but I guess I can’t fault people who don’t understand when so many people diagnosed are afraid to speak out. I just don’t like feeling like I’m alone here; like I’m making this up.

Andy and I love watching “Homeland” and Claire Danes’ portrayal of bipolar disorder is so right on, it’s unbelievable. I have loved her since “My So-Called Life” and felt like I was Angela Chase in high school. So it’s crazy that I can relate to her character so well now, in a completely different series. (Minus the brilliant CIA stuff.) Still, I think it helps the public to understand mental disorders better when there are amazing depictions of them in popular culture. It helps me, too, even if it is just a TV character. It helps me feel not so alone.

I have hope that there will continue to be people who speak out, people who are not so afraid anymore of what others will think when they admit to being diagnosed with mental disorders. We shouldn’t be ashamed to speak out about this. It’s not like we asked for it. This is the way we came. I’m just now learning to be accepting of it myself. The more people who speak out, the more the media and pop culture portray it in an accepting and accurate way, the more we will all understand and be accepting of it.

As far as “Homeland” goes, a show that is depicting a character diagnosed with bipolar disorder…well, I applaud it. I definitely relate to it…to the rapid speech pattern, the racing thoughts…the, at times, help of wondrous Ativan. It’s hard to say how much I relate when I’m the one living it. I asked Andy. He said when I’m manic I am a “busybody,” that I’m doing a “bunch of stuff at once.” I totally relate to the depressive episodes. It’s unreal. It’s just nice to have anyone to relate to, really, anyone who can vouch for the symptoms, even a fictional character. I love my real-life bipolar friends and I love my “so-called life” bipolar friends the same. I also highly recommend this show.

Take it upon yourself now to educate yourself or someone else about mental illness. Television shows can help us, but the best thing we can do is help ourselves.

 

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