I was programmed to believe that medical conditions were categorized based on severity — that there were no similarities among illnesses. This faulty belief system told me that certain illnesses were more serious depending on their symptoms or perception.
I applied this bias to everything from intellectual disability (formally labeled mental retardation), to such things as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, cancer and Alzheimer’s to name a few.
It didn’t occur to me that all illnesses require personal responsibility, dedication to health management and commitment to following a course of action.
Many of the medical conditions I feared the most I dismissed because I couldn’t relate to such a devastating diagnosis.
As my own mother died of ovarian cancer, I was detached, because I feared that this could one day be my own fate. I was uncomfortable being in the presence of any infirmity not knowing what to say or how to act.
Ultimately the simple truth about similarity became evident to me. We are all the same.
Somehow, though, I had seen myself as different or immune. I was healthy, strong, ambitious, committed, determined and without any medical condition — at least not one that was visible.
When I recognized this bias within myself, I was ashamed that I had elevated myself to a higher standing than someone with an illness.
At that moment I recognized my own limitation — the inability to recognize similarity. This is a condition that leads to the death of compassion and stifles the desire for knowledge and truth. Until one recognizes one’s connectedness to others, compassion is not possible.
Did I honestly believe that each and every person who has an illness does not possess similar characteristics to my own? If human beings are so alike, how could I view those with an illness as lacking?
I knew my viewpoint had to change.
There are approximately 300 different manifestations of mental illness, 12,420 diseases and more than 4,000 types of birth defects.
In our life time we will be affected by one or more of these health problems; there is no way out. Will we separate ourselves from those who need us or begin to see our similarities and lend a compassionate hand?
Truthfully we are all the same. Our health problems are addressed in numerous ways but there is always a basic plan.
For the most part, everyone has the ability to confront personal needs and health issues. That is the necessary step in successfully managing any health-related condition — recognition and action.
When we experience negative health symptoms, we generally seek out a family physician, psychiatrist, optometrist, cardiologist, etc. We are then diagnosed, perhaps prescribed medication, advised about options and given guidance on how to manage our condition.
There is always a procedure to follow no matter the degree of severity nor the specific illness.
It is time to recognize that an illness is an illness. Bipolar disorder is an illness that can be managed successfully following the same basic procedure as other illnesses. A procedure that includes, recognizing the symptoms, being diagnosis, establishing a medication regiment and with the help of journaling, and education stability is achieved.
Medication combinations and doses are based on several variables and no two people are alike. Keeping regular notes in a journal is essential for recording daily events and mood shifts. Managing all aspects of one’s life is what each of us does on a daily basis whether one has an illness or not.
I challenge you to open your mind and be honest with yourself. When we discard discrimination and bias, we can see that we are all more alike than we are different.
It is with regret that I was blind to that fact for too long.
See bipolarinsights.com for diagnosis and symptom information.
The co-founder and facilitator of Bipolar Insights, Marcia Rose, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Weekly meetings start at 7 p.m., Sundays at Marshall Medical Health Conference Room 207/208, 681 Main St. in Placerville and on Mondays, in Room 304, Green Valley Church, 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville. The fee is $5 per person.
Check bipolarinsights.com for complete details and further information.