I am a fifty-something working professional woman who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. I was not properly diagnosed until I was in my mid forties, and have experienced many misdiagnoses and incorrect medication prescriptions over the course of my adult life. In retrospect, I am amazed that I am even still alive. I started to present with symptoms in my teens in the 1970’s, back when any psychiatric manifestations in anyone under 21 were often accepted as simply “teenage angst”. Doctors were reluctant to diagnose anyone with a mental illness until over the age of 18, and even then it would have had to have been extreme. Of course psychiatry was not as advanced as it is now. The stigma associated with a “psychiatric disability” was much worse then as well – “crazy” people were still put away in institutions and it was not spoken of in polite company. It’s hard sometimes to agree that things have improved since then, but they have, just not enough.
When the opportunity arose to be involved in this “Lived Experience” blog, I was simultaneously excited and concerned. Being able to share my experiences as a person with Bipolar Disorder II would be so therapeutic for me and possibly helpful to others, but I did not think that doing so under my name would be a good move for my career. (Misdiagnosed, mis-medicated me would have jumped in to it, full disclosure, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!)
Stigma is still the biggest inhibitor to recovery from mental illness over all. It is still prevalent in society which includes to a great extent, the workplace. Should I ever disclose to my supervisor that I have a mental illness, I would not be fired because of that officially, but I would eventually lose my position for something. Either my position would be downgraded, my program cancelled or who knows what. I have seen it happen to another colleague, so I am not exhibiting paranoia in this instance. Even if I somehow managed to maintain my position, I would be treated much DIFFERENTLY; I would be both under intense scrutiny and studiously avoided – looked at “sideways”, so to speak. My decisions would suddenly be considered questionable and my methods would be suspect. It would make work very, very difficult, hence the anonymity of this blog.
It will be extremely valuable for me to be able to talk about my life and my illness without revealing my identity. I have wished to “come out” for quite a while, as I have seen so many people with Mental Illness believe that they can not go to college or university, that they can only ever work minimum wage jobs and that they can never pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, we all seem to buy into the stigma to some extent. I would like to share the fact that one can have a great career and that recovery IS possible! If I ever leave this position or retire, I will be able to stand up and tell people this and put a face to the name. It is ironic that I am so passionate about “Stamping out Stigma”, but at the same time I am bound by it to remain in anonymity. It is doubly ironic that my position entails working with people who have mental illness and/or addictions in an educational capacity!
I would like to be able to learn from other people’s journeys. I would like to be able to tell my story in order to help others with theirs. I would like to be able to speak about the challenges I have faced and the victories I have achieved. I can now begin to do this by writing this blog, for which I am very grateful to the administrators, as an anonymous person.
About L. Song
L. Song is a middle aged professional who has been struggling with Bipolar Disorder II since her teens. After finally being properly diagnosed and prescribed the correct medication at forty-four, she has dedicated herself to helping others who suffer from the stigma of mental illness through her work. To try to make a difference, L. Song supports organizations such as Mood Disorders Society of Canada, CAMH, as well as HMC. As an avid “horse person,” she also follows and contributes to a Facebook page, Riders Against Mental Illness Stigma. She plans to someday work with people and horses in a therapeutic capacity and publish a book about her experiences living and recovering from the disorder. You can follow her story on HMC's Supportive Minds blog.