Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Illness, or a different drum? June 4, 2010.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau

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There's a wide, international movement underway called “Mad Pride.” In it, psychiatric patients are shunning the titles put on them (sometimes offensive titles, like “crazy” and “cuckoo.” But sometimes medical titles, like “bipolar” and “schizophrenic”). Some of them are simply trying to fight the stigma attached to mental illness. Others are denying there IS such a thing as mental illness, seeing their behavior and emotions as simply a different kind of “normal,” ditching meds and treatment altogether. They believe we aren’t ill at all, but simply different.

I can’t agree more that the stigma MUST go. And I definitely agree many physicians are too quick to label and medicate. But I see the more extreme side of the “Mad Pride” movement as just providing me with another stigma to fight. I don’t want my “normal” to be as sick as I was, and I don’t want to feel ashamed to say so.

I have an illness; it’s called bipolar disorder. I take medication, and my life is much better on it than without it. My family depends on me to support them financially, and without treatment, I could not do that. If I have to have a title (and diabetic and epileptic are titles), and if I have to take medication to function and be healthy (and insulin and chemotherapy are medications), then let it be.

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