I was in Shopper’s Drug Mart the other day, glancing at the smutty magazines like People and Cosmo, as many women do while standing in line at the till. I came across this ad:
“Coping with being bipolar”
This really drives me up the wall.
A person cannot “be” bipolar, just as a person cannot “be MS” or “be cancer.” If the heading would have read “Coping with Being Cancer” people would automatically assume it is a typo. But unfortunately this is a part of the stigma around mental health. When an individual has a mental illness, it seems to be legit to write and say it as if someone is the illness, rather than has the illness. But, if someone has a physical illness, one would never characterize them as being the illness.
A person may have an illness, but it does not have them. A person may live with an illness, but it does not define who they are as a person. There is nothing more frightening to me than a person who thinks that their illness is who they are. I can say from experience that it definitely does not. My illness has empowered me as a human being to be where I am today, but it does not define my humour, my intelligence, my personality.
It’s headings like this that make me more motivated than ever to advocate for mental health and to be a part of the movement to eliminate stigma. The more we talk about it and the more we educate the world on the facts about mental illness, the less people will use irritating and demeaning phrases such as “being bipolar.”
I know nothing about Carrie Fisher's story and I never bought the magazine, but I can only hope that the article was written much better than the heading was. It's great to have celebs come out and talk about mental illness, but only if they're written in the most truthful manner.
Join in the movement and talk about mental health!