How 3 Women With Bipolar Disorder Are Breaking Down Stigmas

The conversation surrounding mental illness is still soaked in stigma. Spotlighting these issues is perhaps now more relevant in the mainstream, allowing for understanding to partly replace taboo—but shame, humiliation, and misinformation still dominate the conversation. While misused, ignorant language is spoken quieter now, words like "you're crazy" are still prevalent and cut just as deep. But one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. And bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population 18 and older, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Those numbers prove those affected are not outliers, freaks, or "crazy" people. They're one person out five in the room you're sitting in right now. They're your family members, your co-workers, and your friends. They're you.

"Taking medication for a mental disorder is the same as taking Aspirin for a bad back—just because one relates to the mind doesn't make it shameful," notes our managing editor, Lindsey. "After all, the 'problem' is just located in a different area of the body and is an incredibly common genetic and environmentally triggered condition, so any shame associated with it is groundless."

What's more, according to a 2006 study, 69% of patients with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed initially and more than one-third remained misdiagnosed for 10 years or more. That's the staggering statistic that so plainly became clear when I spoke to four women with bipolar disorder. They spent years on various medications, switching from pill to pill, unable to understand why nothing would work. Finally, after their diagnosis, things always got better. This sentiment has been echoed over and over again.

"Getting a [bipolar] diagnosis was kind of a relief," Demi Lovato writes on Be Vocal's website. "It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing. Now I had no choice but to move forward and learn how to live with it, so I worked with my healthcare professional and tried different treatment plans until I found what works for me."

Below, find three women's stories.

To seek counseling, reach out to your personal doctor, the Crisis Text Line, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.