Myth: Once you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, your life as you’ve known it is over, and you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Truth: Although there is no cure for bipolar, many people with the disorder are able to control their illness. “I can’t tell you how devastating it was to believe my life was over,” says Larry Fricks, vice president of peer services for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Fricks was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1984 and later profiled in Strong at the Broken Places, by Richard M. Cohen. “But you don’t have to have your life taken over by a mental illness,” Fricks says. “You’re still a person with hopes and dreams and you can get those. Bipolar disorder has a very high recovery rate if you are proactive about managing your illness.”
Myth: People with bipolar disorder cannot keep a job or serve in a position of authority. Truth: When bipolar disorder is well controlled, a person’s job performance does not have to be affected by it. “A lot of people with bipolar disorder hold high-functioning jobs. They become lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers,” Sureddi says. By managing bipolar disorder with medications and positive lifestyle habits, such as adhering to regular schedules and sleep habits, they are able to live very stable and productive lives.
Myth: Bipolar disorder defines who you are. Truth: “I have bipolar disorder. I am not bipolar. There’s a big difference,” says Kristin Finn, the author of Bipolar and Pregnant, a mental health advocate, and a member of the speakers bureau of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Finn was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1979 and is the mother of a 17-year-old who also has bipolar disorder. “Just as my next door neighbor may have cancer but wouldn’t say ‘I am cancer.’ I think it’s important not to define yourself by the condition.”