What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

I came out of the bipolar closet to a work friend today. I knew he would be supportive and non judgmental. But his response kind of irked me, which I know he did not intend. I told him I have bipolar and he said “Oh I wouldn’t have thought that at all”. While he meant nothing wrong with this response, it bugs me. I mean, is a mentally ill person supposed to look a certain way? Are they supposed to have a big neon sign floating above them screaming “BIPOLAR!!!”? Should I be crying more or getting in more arguments to fit a particular idea of mental illness? Should I be writing massive essays about government experiments and chemicals making us sick?

I know I’m probably just being overly sensitive but this is part of why I am careful of who I “come out” to. Stigma and incorrect perceptions of mental illness make me want to hide, to change who I am. Every day I fight to appear “normal” and “pleasant”. It’s exhausting. 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, which means, undoubtedly, someone in your family or circle of friends is mentally ill.

It’s time to start changing our ideas of who is mentally ill, and just what that means. It’s time to end the stigma and allow people to live their lives as they are, rather than pretending to be something they are not.

OK, end rant.

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