Bipolar 1 – Public Perception Versus Reality – Examples of Lived Experiences

Stigma Jason-headshot-1 Bipolar 1 - Public Perception Versus Reality - Examples of Lived Experiences

Jason Finucan and I both live with type-1 bipolar disorder.

We have had vastly different experiences with the illness. In this episode, we explore what this disease looks like, how it manifested itself in our own lives and how we got better. We challenge the public perception of bipolar disorder and how the media portrays it. One of the key takeaways from this conversation is how differently two people can experience the same mental illness.

Today, Jason is an author, mental health advocate, stigma fighter, professional speaker, and founder of StigmaZero, Jason is also the creator of the StigmaZero Online Training Academy, where he combats work-place stigma and helps employers to create a stigma free working environment.

You can connect with Jason here: StigmaZero, Jason on LinkedIn, Jason’s Book – Jason:1, Sigma:0, StigmaZero on Twitter, Email: hello@stigmazero.com,

Referenced in the conversation:Book: “Moodswing”

HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:

  1. What is bipolar disorder? How is it different from depression, or other mental illnesses? We talked about how bipolar manifests itself in our lives and draw distinct comparisons between how different it has been for each of us.

  2. We compared and contrasted our experience identifying that we had a problem, that we needed help, and how we both came to get that help.

  3. Jason explains that when he first realized he had an “illness” that he immediately started to stigmatize himself and avoid treatment at first.

  4. We talked about our varying cycle times, what that looks like, and how public perceptions of what a bipolar cycle looks like vary from reality.

  5. Jason explains what severe depressive episodes look like for him and how he would navigate his way out of them.

  6. We talked about what manic episodes look like as well and importantly, how you can tell the difference between a “normal” elevated state, versus a hypomanic or manic state, especially once you become aware of having this illness.

  7. Jason talks about his 3-week stay in a psychiatric hospital, when he got diagnosed and how that led him to finally get the help he needed, and how he has lived symptom free due to his treatment regimen since 2005.

  8. We discuss the Hollywood portrayal of bipolar disorder as well as public perception of bipolar disorder. Jason explains that people tend to think bipolar is this “thing” that looks like X or Y, or Z. However, it does not fit in a box. You cannot stereotype it. It is quite different for everyone who experiences it.

    Pop culture is a real problem. In the media the bipolar representation is skewed heavily toward the manic, dangerous episodes. They never portray the 16 hours in bed per day during depressive stays so public perception is that everyone with bipolar is running around un-hinged all the time which is extremely far from reality.

  9. Do you miss the mania? This is a question Jason fields quite frequently when speaking in public. He explains that he has learned to understand the difference between healthy positive feelings, that are sustainable, and unsustainable manic episodes which are ultimately very destructive and while they feel good for a minute, can lead to long term pain and agony.

  10. We talked about how you know when a reaction is a normal elevated response, versus a sign that there is a problem coming on. This requires some vigilance. In his first 2 years Jason worried that every time he felt good, that maybe he felt too good. He tracks his sleep, and energy over time and as able to use that to baseline how he feels.

  11. Jason shares that he has not experienced even the mildest hypomania since June 2005 when started treating the illness.

  12. We compare our diets, the medication we take, our regular routines, sleep patterns, and how we manage our illness broadly.

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