If someone in your life has bipolar disorder, check this out now!
I was about to turn off my computer and head for the gym when I made an online discovery that will bring hope to those of you who know someone with bipolar disorder, or have the illness yourself. Patient Voices: Bipolar Disorder, posted yesterday on The New York Times web site, will introduce you to a diverse array of articulate, attractive, engaging men and women who tell the truth about the challenges—and the unlikely rewards—of living with their incurable but eminently treatable condition.
One man recalls being convinced that his two-year-old was having a baby (his older daughter had to stop him from laying boiled rags on the toddler's belly). Several participants admit to running naked in the street. A beautiful 23-year-old says that as a child on a long-ago family drive, she once tried to wrench the wheel from her mother's hands. Yet if you met any of those people while walking your dog or buying groceries, they'd blend right into the neighbourhood scene.
They're coping just fine with bipolar disorder, which is more than some of those close to them could do. One woman tells how thoughtful her boyfriend seemed when he escorted her to a hospital ward. That was just before he dumped her. She's married now, but her voice has a rueful edge as she looks back on the anxiety of dating with a mental illness: "Do I just lay [the truth] on the table on the first date and see if they run?"
Not quite three weeks have passed since I called your attention to The Globe and Mail's precedent-setting series on mental illness (click here for my earlier post). The piece on the Times web site is a one-off, but nonetheless a heartening sign of changing times. Until very recently, you had to be physically ill to see your everyday dramas reflected in the media with compassion and conviction. No longer. The implications are huge because it's not facts and statistics that encourage people to seek help. It's the stories of others who once stood where they are standing—and are not afraid to use their real names.