Monday, December 11, 2006

Outting myself

Warning! This discussion is a bit serious and may be somewhat controversial.

After a good discussion with my therapist, I have quite a bit about which to think. Once I informed her that I was writing this web log, she expressed some concern. Unfortunately the issue she counts is definitely something I had to consider. Exposing my mental illness shouldn't also expose me to liability, but it does as this is a world where nothing is perfect and humans are subject to discriminative thoughts. Bipolar disorder is widely misunderstood and frequently poorly characterized by the media. I am guilty of hiding my mental illness diagnosis in the closet for fear that I will be prejudged before I have a chance to show who I really am and am not. Certainly, I am not my illness, but of course it is a significant part of my life. Denying that fact would be denying a part of myself. Frequently employers change their behavior and expectations concerning employees who suffer from a particular mental illness. Currently, there are suits in our courts against universities and employers where a student or employee has been dismissed from their school or job upon discovery of any past history of severe mental illness symptoms. However, I refuse to issue a universal description regarding the characteristics of someone who suffers from bipolar illness, just to alleviate everyone's fears. Every case is different just as every person is different. All I ask is that no assumptions be made regarding my condition. And for now, I will continue to out myself in this blog as someone who is managing a mental illness. Sadly, such a risk compels me to maintain some form of anonymity in case a potential employer were to stumble upon my blog.

As another thought, I have put a lot of mental energy into the question that I see most frequently in chat rooms, comments, and message boards. "Why would anyone be so selfish to attempt to have a baby when they risk not only exposing their child to their bipolar illness but also passing on the genetic predisposition for the illness?" This is a very tough question. First on the selfishness issue, all I can say is that 99% of the time the decision to make a baby is inherently a selfish one. I do not deny that people make extreme, selfless sacrifices to give their child the best that they can. However, the initial decision to have a baby is usually made because the person(s) WANT(S) a baby, not because little eggs are begging their owners to fertilize them. Second, my illness is treatable and manageable. None of my sisters are bipolar. Despite my illness, I and any of my offspring have every opportunity to make life successful and be a happy, productive member of society. My genes are only one factor in the life of my child. Finally, there is the issue of exposing my child to my illness. A valid concern if I refused to acknowledge my disorder. Not the case here. Plenty of people have made extraordinary contributions to the world in spite of the challenge of their mental illness. Regardless of one's faith, it is difficult to deny that suffering gives humans a perspecitive on happiness that one could not otherwise have. Without suffering, I would have no compassion. Without compassion, I could not be the human that I aspire to be. I hope to pass on this perspective to my child. For those who cannot fathom how a person with a mental illness could contribute to the world, I give you one name, Abraham Lincoln. Don't believe me? Consider the book Lincoln's Melancholy.

I will cease my rant now and get on that treadmill.


Barbara said...

Here's another minute. Knock yourself out.

Veronika said...

I've been trying to comment here, but unable to. I wanted to say that I think that with your perspectives, you would make a great parent! It sure sucks to have to be anonymous, doesn't it? It's too bad that society has such low opinions of people with mental illnesses.
Keep on exercising, girl!

Sara said...

If only the genetically perfect could breed, we'd wind up so inbred that we'd die off anyway.

Hey, it could be argued that with my family history of heart disease, autoimmune conditions, rampaging cancers and depression that my kids shouldn't exist.... and I'm sure one day when they're teenagers they'll curse me for their imperfections. But they have redeeming qualities-- most days.

Sunflower said...

thanks for stopping by my Sunflower blog. Here is another minute for u.

akeeyu said...

I'm in the same boat myself, and what did it for me was the idea that Manic Depression is not a fatal flaw. I would not expect to be euthanized for it, therefore my (imaginary) children should not be NOT born because of the potential that they will have it.