Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma leads many people to suffer in silence. Or worse, to not seek help.
This week a friend called me Hester Prynne. You know, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter. For those of you who slept through American Literature in high school, Hester committed adultery and a few months later she birthed a daughter out of wedlock. The novel is set in Puritanical New England. So the society was big on shame and punishment. Hester did some time in jail, and when the baby was born she had to stand on a pillory for a few hours. For the rest of her life she had to wear an A emblazoned on her chest. But Hester was a seamstress. And a strong woman. She was not to be shamed. She designed an elaborate A. And instead of wearing it as a badge of shame, she took this as a chance to own her sin while simultaneously showing off her craftsmanship.
So my friend called me a modern-day Hester. Instead of shrinking from the stigma of having bipolar disorder, I have embraced it. I don't know why I don't feel the stigma. But I just don't. But I want to be the voice for those who do feel the stigma and are silenced.
I am reminded of a quotation from Audre Lorde: "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak." Lorde, the self-defined "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Silence does not protect you.
My goal of becoming a bipolar spokesperson has been coming to fruition. By next month, I will have had three interviews (two Internet radio interviews and a blog interview). I blog at Manic Monique's Meanderings and an HuffPost. And I'm in the midst of writing my bipolar memoir. This whole process has been incredibly therapeutic. And I hope that my life and story has been a blessing to others.