Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition which affects roughly one percent of the American population. The condition typically manifests as intense emotional mood swings ranging from hyper energetic episodes known as mania to bouts of low energy and depression. Despite the fact that so many people are living with the disorder, bipolar remains a largely hidden illness.
Perhaps a fear of being stigmatized prevents many individuals and families from speaking about the condition openly. At times, the disorder can feel so intense that those living with it may wonder what degree of normalcy they can expect from life. Family members may succumb to these same doubts and fears. Everyone whose life is touched by the condition needs to know that bipolar disorder is not necessarily a limit on life and much can be enjoyed and accomplished despite the challenge of the illness.
When the person with bipolar disorder is married, the role of the spouse has some unique challenges, but the spouse who rises to meet those challenges can provide the kind of support that is crucial in managing the condition. However, because there is a lot of emotional, and sometimes even financial, demand placed upon the spouses of persons with bipolar, the spouse will need to be careful to keep their own support network strong. Spouses who do not make the effort to maintain outside relationships run the risk of becoming depressed themselves. The spouse who feels stigmatized by their partner’s condition can feel doubly isolated.
A small Pakistani study involving 35 couples in which one spouse had a mental illness found that when the healthy partner loses his or her support network their risk for depression increases dramatically. Thankfully, a support system need not require significant effort to develop. A single trusted friend or involved and caring family members can provide all the support that is needed. This, and seeing how others have not only survived the condition but have managed to achieve recognition and success, can comprise sufficient encouragement to keep moving forward.
Thankfully, some high profile people have begun to come forward and let the world know about their own struggles with bipolar disorder. Their successes can be inspirational just as their confession can help to reduce perceived stigmas. A few celebrities who have made known their battles with bipolar disorder include Canadian First Lady Margaret Trudeau, U.S. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Richard Dreyfuss, Carrie Fisher, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Gibson, Jane Pauley and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Bipolar disorder is a challenging mental illness, but it is not a diagnosis which relegates a person’s life to the background. With proper treatment and a strong support system, people living with bipolar disorder can reach the heights of success.
The fear of stigma which once kept the condition shrouded is slowly clearing as more and more successful people come forward and tell the public how their achievements were made despite a bipolar diagnosis.