Bipolar & Mental Health – These Reactions to Sinead O’Connor’s Video Diary Hurt Not Help
When a public figure’s private suffering goes viral, it’s unsurprising when people line up to have their say, for better or worse. But what the reactions to Sinead O’Connor’s video demonstrate more than anything is that increased bipolar awareness is still vital. I am bipolar and I can tell you, some of the “advice” on offer is just another burden to carry
I just saw the heartbreaking video that Sinead O’Connor posted, with regards to her current mental state. Heartbreaking to me, because I’ve been on the inside of it.
Immediately underneath, as I’ve grown to expect, were seemingly endless variants on two types of comment:
1) “There are so many people out there suffering from far more serious illnesses. She needs to get a grip.”
2) “She doesn’t need drugs or a psychiatrist, she should see a homeopath. Look at her diet, treat it holistically.”
I don’t know which makes me angrier. Or, more correctly, which makes me feel more weary resignation at the inability of people to empathise, to imagine something outside of their own experience.
What do they think bipolar disorder is? What do they think it does to a person?
I, after years, have learned, I hope, to take responsibility for my own care and the consequences of my actions. Along the way, I tried everything: diet, coping strategies, exercise, meditation, denial. And guess what? Only medication allowed me to reclaim my actual self, Big Pharma or no Big Pharma. It’s different for everyone.
I’ve had people tell me I could rid myself of the physical and mental pain I have been in every single day of my life by eating more nuts or changing my toothpaste. And they are lucky that my conscience wasn’t entirely obliterated by this insidious sickness.
It’s a dull roar now, a pain with which I’ve learned to live, but there were years where it was like getting used to being on fire. In a desert. Wearing a suit made of tractor tires. It affected every corner of my life; it altered my perception, my personality and my decision-making processes. And those were the good days.
I have a sufficiently British background for that to be an uncomfortable admission. It feels like complaining. I still skew to “get on with it”.
But that’s what it is. Constant pain in one form or another. Every day. And on top of that, the inability of others to trust any part of you, lest it spring from that pain.
I’ll live with the results of who it made me for the rest of my life. And I’ve been lucky. I’ve had people who have tried to understand, to help and to forgive.
I’m also lucky that I’ve survived it so far.
You are free to believe whatever you wish. But don’t tell anyone else what they’re feeling. Don’t you dare. You don’t know the half of it.
Either switch on your heart and try to imagine what they’re going through or shut your mouth.
Yes, it’s down to me, to anyone, to accept treatment for this illness, to accept help that, so often, makes you feel helpless. I’m lucky, again, that people have cared enough to make me.
Even though there is no cure. And it will never completely go away.
But I know where the people who can’t, or who are struggling, are living. And let me tell you, it’s Hell.
Of course there are other horrors. Ones you can see. But the concealed erosion of everything you are is no less horrific for all that.
No mentally ill person wants to be treated as a collection of symptoms. Just as a person in pain, begging for something to ease it.
And sometimes the acknowledgement of the latter is the first dose of medicine, the one that dampens the fire long enough for them to direct you to water.
Since Sinead O’Connor posted the video, the following statement has been made on her Facebook page:
Bipolar Disorder links