I wish I could say this post was about me standing up to stigma in mental illness but it’s not. (I don’t even think stigma is the right word to use here. It’s more like standing up to comments that undercut the seriousness of mental illness.) It’s better. This is a gratitude post because my 14-year-old nephew is amazing.
A group of my family was sitting around the kitchen table, playing a card game, when one of my family members made an off the cuff comment about Michigan being Bipolar in terms of weather. The comment wasn’t made in a mean way and the person that said it in no way has an issue with mental illness or against people with Bipolar disorder. It’s one of those types of comments that has become so commonplace in our society today that most people don’t even blink an eye at it. But ever since I was diagnosed with mental illness, and more recently with Bipolar, I’ve become more aware of these kinds of comments. They make me uncomfortable but, more times than not, I don’t speak up. I don’t know if it’s fear of the response I’ll get or just not wanting to draw attention to myself, but I stayed quiet and avoided eye contact.
But my nephew, my incredibly amazing 14-year-old nephew, turned around and said something along the lines of, “That’s offensive to people with Bipolar.” He wasn’t rude about it either, he just said it in a calm, matter-of-fact way. My other family member acknowledged what she said and sincerely apologized to me. I accepted the apology and I knew that no offense was intended. I want to be brave and amazing like my nephew and stand up against comments like that. It takes a lot of courage and I hope in the future I will be more like him in this respect.
Edit: I talked to the person who made that comment after writing this post and I wanted to add that she deals with mental illness as well and I want to make sure that’s clear in the context of this situation. I know that she didn’t mean any offense and wasn’t being callous or insensitive.