Bipolar, to have or to be?

BipolarUK, the national charity which supports touched by manic depression as it was once commonly called, recently launched the I am/I have campaign.   Tuesday, 3 October, is Bipolar Awareness Day.   The stigma surrounding mental health is gradually lessening. However, there is a still long way to go. BipolarUK estimates that more than one million people in the UK have the condition.

Someone with diabetes is said to be diabetic. The adjective diabetic conjugates with the verb to be. The noun diabetes conjugates with the verb to have. Bipolar conjugates with both the verbs to be and to have. In the mind’s eye of some, a person with a diagnosis of bipolar is defined by their bipolarity. 

Someone can be further categorised as being bipolar I, bipolar II, having rapid cycling or cyclothymia, which the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website defines as “mood swings [that] are not as severe as those in full bipolar disorder, but can be longer.”

I have a condition which, in its acute phases, has made me very ill.   I was diagnosed with bipolar twelve years ago, though I do not recall being given a formal categorisation of bipolar I or bipolar II.  The length and nature of my episodes are classic type II.  I have been episode free since 2005 thanks to family support, taking the right medication and making lifestyle adjustments.

I have bipolar, but it does not have me.  I am a proud devoted dad, a fiancé, a son, a full time employee and one of the facilitators of the Manchester Bipolar UK Support Group. We meet on the second Wednesday every month, except December, from 19:00 to 21:00 at the Central Manchester Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS.

The public perception of being bipolar far too often focuses on the negative debilitating aspects of the condition. The drug and alcohol fuelled exploits of certain celebrities with a bipolar diagnosis can public skew perceptions further.

Please help tackle the stigma surrounding the condition by supporting BipolarUK.

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