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The Secret Side of Mental Illness

Having a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, can be accompanied by a host of stigmas that have slowly been accepted by society as more and more individuals are diagnosed. While I’m not saying that having a mental illness is easy, I’m saying having depression and anxiety is slowly becoming accepted in society as part of life.

While more and more people are getting the treatment and help they need for anxiety and depression, there are still silent mental illnesses in our ranks that are not afraid to wreak havoc in our lives, one of which is Bipolar disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only 8 out of 10 adults in the U.S. even know what Bipolar disorder, which can make the stigmas around being diagnosed with such a mental illness debilitating. Seventy-nine percent of people diagnosed with Bipolar fear the repercussions of discussing their condition with others.

As a milspouse, I fear these numbers may be higher.

When I took to a few national groups to ask if anyone would be open to talking openly about a mental illness besides depression and anxiety, overwhelmingly I was told, “no.” I went back to ask reasons why someone wouldn’t talk about their condition or seek out help and the answers rang out loud and clear: “I’m scared I’ll impact my sponsor’s career.” I’m heartbroken that there are milspouses out there who feel that way.

Why do I care so much?

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II when I was 19.

Goodness, that was a train-wreck of a year, and I cannot imagine doing it without help. Originally, I was diagnosed as depressed and having a panic disorder. I was put on a routine antidepressant and sent on my way. About a day later, I went manic. I don’t remember going manic, just bits and pieces, but my husband does and told me everything in detail.

I didn’t sleep for four nights in a row. I painted and redid an entire room in one night. I went on late night runs (2 a.m. and not telling anyone where I was). I even spent almost all of our money. I was quickly rushed back to my doctor who sent me to a psychiatrist and was later diagnosed with Bipolar II.

Since then, I’ve been able to finish two degrees, hold down a career, and be a mother and a wife.

It’s been challenging and sometimes my medicine has to change as I grow older, but we’ve fought this mental illness together.

While I write this, I too stay anonymous. I’m open with my friends and family about my condition, but after reading the multiple comments I received when I asked why others wouldn’t share their condition or seek help, I now worry too. I’ll still receive my routine help and stay medicated, but I’m more tightly lipped about who knows as my husband slowly climbs up different ranks in the military.

When will spouses get the proper help they need without jeopardizing their spouse? Will that ever happen? How can a society move past preconceived notions of what a person with Bipolar is like and move toward how they can help the person grow?  The military lifestyle is already a lifestyle with many hurdles. I would hope that soon spouses would rise together to fight past stigmas of all mental illness and move to understand or at least a desire to understand.

Life can continue with Bipolar, and hopefully, the military will support milspouses with all mental conditions.

If you or someone you may have Bipolar (or any other mental illness), please don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider for help. There’s nothing shameful about getting help. Life is still possible!

Author

  • M:M Command Team

    With over 159 years of military spouse experience and 68 PCSes under their belts, the M:M Command team is the ultimate Battle Buddy to help navigate Milspouse life. Powered by volunteer spirit and optimism the M:M Command Team could run a small country, but instead are dedicated entirely to the global empowerment of military spouses to help them conquer adversity, foster confidence, and thrive in this military life.

1 Comment

  1. Sharita Knobloch

    To this anonymous milspouse– Your courage is inspiring. And this article is sure to bless so many others out there. Well done… and I appreciate you!

    Reply

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The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

If you’ve read any of my blog submissions on Mission Milspouse lately, you’ll likely see a pattern where I have been mostly writing about what I’ve learned being a military spouse for the past twenty years but in presented in slightly different ways. In addition to...

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