There once was a painter who was tormented by his emotions. For days he would spend all day in bed, locked away from the world. His neighbors misunderstood him. He couldn’t even sell his paintings for a glass of cheap wine. He died alone, never realizing that he would be known as one of the greatest master painters in human history. His name was Vincent Van Goth.
It was not until after his death that his paintings’ beauty and genius was discovered. And it wasn’t until much later that he was posthumously diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar is one of the most well known and misunderstood diagnosis in psychiatry. Originally named Manic Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that effects the regulation of emotions. A person with Bipolar will experience dizzying highs followed by devastating lows. These cycles can last for days, weeks, even months. Suffers of this disorder also have a much higher than average suicide rate.
March 30th, 2022 is World Bipolar Awareness Day. That day is also the birthdate of Vincent Van Gogh, the face of Bipolar. On this day we also remember those the illness who succumbed to suicide. I almost was one of them.
I am very open about my mental illness. I refuse to be made ashamed of my disability by ignorance. It is my belief that the way to end the stigma of mental illness is through education. Educating the public about what Bipolar is and more importantly what it is not.
People with Bipolar are not dangerous to the public. The fact is that they are more often a danger to themselves, especially when they are experiencing an episode. Every time there is a public shooting, the rush to judgment is that the shooter suffered from mental illness. For the majority of those shootings, the shooter had no history of mental illness. Yet it is the mentally ill that are blamed for such violence. They are feared. And they are shunned by society.
I have personally experienced these things during my lifetime. Despite the internet, ignorance and misconceptions about mental illness is as bad today as it was during Vincent’s day. My friends know I have Bipolar. It can be difficult for them to understand my mood swings, my isolation, and then reappearing in their lives days or weeks later. Sometimes they expect me to act as if I don’t have a mental illness.
On March 30th, take fifteen minutes out of your life and google “Bipolar”. Be sure to use reliable sources such as NIH.gov or NAMI.org. Learn about what it is that we live through day by day. Reach out to those who suffer from Bipolar and show them that you care about them. And take the time to also look up some of Vincent’s paintings.