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The Price of Silence

One in four adults—approximately 57.7 million Americans— experience a mental health disorder in a given year.  –NAMI

How many times have I heard someone call a person with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness) a slur and not said anything?  I just didn’t have the energy for the conversation.

A friend and I were watching Homeland recently and he heard Claire Danes’ character was taking an antipsychotic.  The word nutjob immediately came out of his mouth when he heard about the drug.

That was my opportunity to say it.  I am on an antipsychotic.  But no, I kept quiet because I was tired.  We were in the middle of watching a TV show.  Would I bring it up later? No.

The price I pay: resentment of that person for making an ignorant comment.  The sad thing about off-hand comments is that they are systemic.  Misunderstanding of mental illness is so ingrained in society that otherwise kind people you respect make comments like that.

I have begun to speak up.  A conversation I had a little over a week ago changed that.  After my last episode several years ago, I had vowed to become a voice.  It hasn’t happened.  Yes, some people know.  But, our conversation really changed my resolve.

She mentioned mental illness in her family.  The conversation progressed.  She mentioned that 1 in 4 people have experienced mental illness.  I was shocked that I didn’t already know that.  But, I shouldn’t be surprised.  We don’t talk about it.  Except when something bad happens.

My goal for 2013 is to participate in the conversation and hopefully begin to change perceptions.

(Sadly, I am keeping myself anonymous on this website for fear of a prospective employer finding out about my illness.  I don’t trust the Equal Employment Opportunity claim in the hiring process.)

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