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My Mum has always had bi-polar just like I’ve always had blue eyes and freckles on my nose, except maybe the freckles were easier to come to terms with. But unlike freckles, there’s no concealer quick fix for mental illness. It can’t be covered up, or pushed under the rug and forgotten about, and just like my freckles don’t define me, Bi-Polar doesn't define my Mother.

Bi-Polar doesn't mean that when my Mother is sad she’s going through a depressive phase. It doesn't mean that when she stays up late one night, she’s manic. It doesn't mean that she changes every day, swinging from happy to sad to happy to sad. She’s not some kind of human pendulum.

Bi-Polar doesn't mean that you have to talk to my Mother like she’s a four year old in trouble for drawing on the carpet. It doesn't mean that she’ll break into a million pieces if you make an off-handed comment about some “psycho” customer you served at your part time job in the local supermarket.

Mum is just a woman. She’s got eyes like cerulean skies and hair that stands on end when it rains. She’s a brilliant artist. She sings along to all kinds of music and somehow she always knows the lyrics. She’s been given a hard lot in life and she’s always made it work; a single Mum ever since I was five and I've never missed having a father. Mum is just a woman with a killer sense of humour, maybe a little too much compassion for people who don’t deserve it. She’s just a woman with a half completed degree in psychology, and maybe that’s ironic because some time before I was born she was diagnosed with something they call “Bi-Polar.” But that’s irrelevant, because she’s just a woman.

My Mother goes through medication as quickly as she changes the colour of her hair, and right now she hasn't been taking anything. It’s the same as any illness; without medication it gets worse. But what makes it different to diabetes or the flu is the fact that Mum is ashamed when she shouldn't be, and it’s shame that’s making her skip out on her meds and slip into depression that can hang around like a grey cloud over everything for months.

My Mum has Bi-polar and I’m okay with it. I’m okay with talking about it because it needs to be talked about, and what really bothers me is how people would much rather discuss the weather or reality T.V. We need to be educated about this, we need to speak out about it, because there’s no shame in mental illness. The shame lies in refusing to recognise that it exists.

I don’t have the answers on how best to treat the issue. I’m not an expert; in fact I’m far from it. I’m a seventeen year old girl with a beautiful Mother who is struggling with an illness that is shirked around and avoided like an elephant in the room. Mental illness exists and it’s not going anywhere, but it’s not just “mental illness” as an object, because these are real people just like you, me, or any inconspicuous stranger you pass on the street. Doctors, farmers, teachers, mothers, fathers, uncles, sons, all kinds of people.

Mental illness deserves a voice, but not a voice that is patronising and condescending. No. It needs a voice that is witty and proud, honest and understanding. People need to know that mental illness isn't all dark clouds and medicated roads to recovery.

What we need is people to speak out. What we need is to shatter the stigma that is shattering the pride of all kinds of people all over the world. This needs to be spoken about. It needs to be a discussion that is put back on the radar; it needs to remain there until things actually begin to change.



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