Bipolar disorder can be thought of as an illness that runs along a continuum. I once saw a cartoon depicting bipolar disorder as an elevator. The person in the “middle floor” could either go upward into a “manic state” or downward into a “depressive state”. Bipolar disorder is a condition in which a person is switching between these manic and depressive states, which are perceived as “mood swings”.
The concept of living with a mental illness bears resemblance, to me, the likes of a bird cage: You can look like any other bird (perhaps even a pigeon bobbing its head on the sidewalk), but you can’t be free like a wild bird—not behind the steel “cage” of medication.
If you go beyond that cage and you escape, you’re quick to discover that—once you’re out of the safety blanket of the cage—your depressive or manic symptoms or whatever mental illness symptoms you might have will spring up again. Then you’ll have to flock back to that cage, transition back to your life within the cage, and start all over.
But the thing is: you just want to be normal. You see all the wild birds around you flying and prancing and strolling, and you want to join them. But once you step foot onto that unknown terrace—out of your cage, refusing to take medications because you believe you no longer need them—then you could impose a potential threat to yourself and others.
Did you choose to live in that cage? No. Someone put you in that cage; it’s just how things happened. But you have no choice but to live behind those steel bars and to just accept the fact that you are who you are. That the only way for you to live a healthy life is to play it safe and to take your medications when you’re supposed to; to live within the cage you were born in.
You don’t know how you got in that cage (though you’d definitely want to know WHY). What is wrong with me? You may ask. That is, until you begin to look around your surroundings more and finally realize… Hey. That bird is also locked up in a cage. And so is that one. And so is that one.
And then you realize: I’m not alone.
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I learned a lot today and I just want to say that I have utter respect for those living with mental illness. It takes a lot of strength and perseverance to cope with a disease as complex and frustrating and painful as this—especially because it’s a disease that no one can see. It’s an invisible, yet devastating, illness. Some family members of these patients are also very strong individuals who go through tremendous amounts of effort to understand and empathize with their loved ones affected with the disease.
Mental illness is a disease, nevertheless. Just because it’s not physical doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or lacks prevalence.