Disability Stigma Lies Within


Before diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I referred to my ‘sadness’ or ‘excitement’ as casual emotional variation. I have been brought up with proper schooling and used to have enough social activities that everyone enjoys in early life. I used to drive my car to the university. I managed to have a shining and distinctive academic track besides taking too much stress in exam period. I knew that I faced confusion and stress – perhaps because I always used to think on big questions since I was in school. I asked my teacher about the origin of God and the mankind. I used to ponder where these languages came from? And so forth. These are questions that don’t have straight answers. The level of confusion increased to extend that I used to think I might not be a normal person.

I was too much worried about my career and was disturbed due to confusion with sexual orientation, that the anxiety led to nervous breakdown in 2007. Since March 2007, I started Psychiatric drugs, before that I was coping it without any medications. Then in 2011, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 27. After getting this fancy title, I used to analyze my life and the world around with the prejudices of the illness.

Like, I am not a normal person.

I may not live a normal happy life like others.

I am very unfortunate person

I cannot earn enough money to sustain decent life

I may not live a happy family life

And the never-ending comparison between my misery and achievements of friends

I have been taking antipsychotics since 2007 and mood stabilizers since 2011 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar (I don’t skip medicines). And along with the medication, consultation with psychiatrist on regular basis, studying about the disease online and making lifestyle adjustments, I keep experiencing highs and lows (what DSM terms as Depressive and Manic Episodes).

I don’t want to get into the debate whether drugs are working or they are not more than  placebo, I just want to highlight by sharing my story that since after the diagnosis I was put on life-time medications which apparently don’t ‘Cure’ my mood instability and give me so much side effects. Nobody would want to take medicines that keep on increasing year by year without producing a noticeable effect on your thinking and behavior, and in return disturb the brain wiring and biochemical proportions that impairs your overall physiology of body (memory function, weight gain, sleep problems, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, kidney failure, blood pressure, cardiac diseases and what not)

Beside the failure and adverse effects of drugs, the label of ‘Bipolar Disorder’ not only alienate me from the world but also make me disable, less efficient, unfortunate and ultimate failure. I know I am suffering from a horrible mental illness so it’s obvious that I can’t live a happy normal life like my friends. We often fight for acceptance in the society. But the truth is, we carry this ‘Stigma’ within us that holds us back to find and enjoy our share of happiness in the world. We see ourselves and predict our lives with the ‘lens of mental illness.’

Furthermore, when we are entitled to enter in the world of psychiatry and mental health, we explore more related stuff about the ‘disease’ and related illnesses. Then we get amaze to explore more psychological problems (that you may or may not have and regardless of the fact that it is legitimate problem or not) For example, Psychiatry justifies every thought and behavior pattern by packaging it as ‘disorder’ Like I was quite excited and thrilled as a child and didn’t focus on studies attentively so I might be suffering from ADHD or I have quite repetitive thoughts so maybe it’s OCD.  Initially it looks very fascinating to receive such titles as honorary award.

Now when I recall my life history before and after diagnosis, I can claim with no doubt that my life was much better before the diagnosis. I used to laugh on crazy jokes, I got excitement while meeting friends, I was emotional and sensitive, I got upset and offended easily, I was creative and artistic, I was a bright student, I was sympathetic but I was not a Bipolar. I was a normal person like my other friends.

Today, when I read that bipolar people are creative so I regard my creativity with my ‘disease’ not with my ability. When I knew many great writers in history were Bipolar, so I believed that my writing skills are a gift of my ‘illness’ However I took admission in Mass Communication in 2004 when I knew about my interest and capabilities but after my diagnosis as Bipolar in 2011, I realized, Oh that’s the reason why I have good communication skills.

I don’t claim that problems with cognition and behavior don’t exist. But when we give a title to something, it will become our identity and then it will decide our destiny. We just act us puppets.

P.S. I would better want to be known as a Normal person with emotional variation than a Bipolar – Mental Patient.

Rayan Ahmed.