Trigger Warning: Suicide
If committing suicide is not a choice, as I wrote in Part I, then Bipolar is an illness that takes lives. So why isn’t it given the same treatment?
Even someone who believes that suicide is a free choice would acknowledge the impact that the illness has on the “decision”. So why is it that when my mother’s cousin (who lives overseas and she barely knows) gets diagnosed with Breast Cancer, there is an endless amount of support over facebook and my mum sends over care packages and the lot (which I am glad for), yet the overwhelming response to my diagnosis of a major disorder that will effect the way I live for the rest of my life is closer to, well…
Now, I’m not complaining that I don’t get a constant stream of support. I don’t want to be treated like a victim for my whole life. But it really goes to show the double standard.
Why, you might ask? Well, let me put it this way.
Breast Cancer – a disease known worldwide to be deadly and terrifying – has a mortality rate of 11%. Manic Depression has a mortality rate of 15%. 3 out of every 20 people with this illness will successfully take their lives, with between 25-50% attempting it.
In other words, my mother’s cousin has a better chance of surviving than I do.
This is also comparable to Diabetes, the 7th biggest killer in the United States, which is listed as the underlying cause of death in 10-15% of patients.
Or perhaps it’ll scare you that someone diagnosed with Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, before it is widespread has a 6% better chance of surviving than I or my father or my uncle who committed suicide did.
Need more proof that Bipolar is a scary thing? I have an equal chance of dying from this as I do from an Ischemic Stroke, which make up 87% of strokes.
Now, I’m not saying all of this to throw a pity party for myself.
But I am definitely pointing out how the difference in treatment between someone suffering Bipolar and someone suffering a physical illness is completely unjustifiable.
It is time for the overwhelming attitude of not taking mental illness seriously to stop.
Why should I, or any other sufferer, be afraid to ask for help? Would you be disinclined to seek medical attention if you had just suffered a stroke? If you had Breast Cancer?
Maybe, if the response you’re given in your time of need is that you aren’t trying hard enough, that you’re seeking attention, or even just complete apathy, then you would be afraid to.
And if you think I am not talking about YOUR attitude – after all, you’re reading my blog and obviously care, right? – think again.
I have friends and family who care. Bless them, they really try. And I am more than grateful to any person who cares in whatever way they can manage.
But simply caring does not mean you have the right attitude.
Because these people “help” by telling my to try harder. Perhaps there’s some tough love thrown in. They feel it’s all about willpower. Because after all, they had times they were very sad or felt out of control and but they got over it easy enough – surely even if it’s a little worse for me it’s the same, right?
These are the people who care about my struggles, but do not see me as battling an illness. They see my Depression or my Mania as behaviours, not something that feels external to me that changes who I am against my will.
It is not a battle with myself, which I can ultimately control with a little effort, this is a war against something else.
Much like a battle against Cancer, or Diabetes. Where of course willpower plays an important part, yet people understand that it is not them.
(Have you ever heard someone say “I am Cancer” or “I’m Heart Disease”? Why do we say “I am Bipolar?”)
Perhaps I am arguing something insignificant here. Perhaps whether or not someone treats my illness seriously means little.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that in my weakest moments, having someone treat me like a strong person who is battling something difficult, instead of as a weak person who needs strength, makes a big difference.
Apologies if any of my statistics are wrong – I pulled them from government sites and relevant organisations, but of course mistakes can be made.