Lauren Kocher is determined not to let bipolar disorder turn her into a statistic.
I have done some research about my illness – bipolar disorder. I learned that 1 in 5 people diagnosed die from it. Those are scary statistics when you think about it. It means I have a pretty good chance of not watching my boys grow up. I could miss out on the first day of school, proms, graduation, weddings, and even meeting my grandchildren. A person with my illness has an average shortened life span of 9 years. 9 years. There would be almost of decade of time, I would end up missing out on. 9 years. It makes my heart ache just thinking about it. I would potentially miss 9 years with my loving husband.
The hardest part of it all is there is no cure. There is no getting better. There is only remission maintained by diet, exercise, outpatient therapy, and medications. This is if I have the insurance to cover all my medications, regular blood tests required by some medications, and doctor visits. Then there are the side effects of some of the life-sustaining medications: loss of fine motor skills, liver damage, and weight gain to name a few. The sacrifices made to keep me alive if I could afford it. Sometimes. Sometimes I don’t have the money and I have to go at it alone. I have to take each episode as they come. Just praying I have enough strength to make it to the next.
Some days I grow weary of the struggle. I get tired of fighting and I just want to let fate decide. I look into my boys’ face and believe that deserve better than an always sick mom. Then I think about going to the hospital for treatment. Just to stay long enough to get myself in a good place. Then who would take care of my boys. I couldn’t be so selfish to expect someone to take care of my kids while I try to get better. I just need to suck it up and keep moving forward. Let’s be honest, I am the modern-day equivalent of a leper. Sure, people may feel sorry for me, but not enough to reach out a helping hand.
And if I finally decide to let my illness claim me as 1 out of 5, I will be a villain not a hero. There will be no ribbons worn in honor of me. No one will be there to light a luminary at a walk in support of my illness. No T-shirts. No fundraisers. No memorials or 5Ks. I will be viewed as selfish and thoughtless. No one will talk about the fight I put up. They will only focus on the part of where I gave up. The stigma of my death will carry on to my boys. For if my boys chose to share how I died, they will not be met with sympathy but pity. And my death will forever lower my worth as a mother. It is a shame because my boys will know how hard I fought. However they will be frowned up if they choose to honor me. They will have to defend the legitimacy of my illness.
However there is a silver lining in all of this. Though it may be potential deadly, it is not terminal. Matter of fact death from this illness is 100% preventable. With research, awareness, and proper treatment, no one will ever have to die from this illness. I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year. (National Institute of Mental Health) Bipolar disorder results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span, and as many as one in five patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. (National Institute of Mental Health) These are unavoidable truths that need to be addressed.
Truth is I don’t want to be a statistic. And seeing my boys have at least 25% chance of being bipolar, I don’t want them to be one either. We need to stop treating mental illnesses so lightly. We need to start recognizing that they are potently deadly illnesses. No matter how someone dies, their life mattered. We need to start recognizing this and start acting upon it. My fight deserves the same dignity and respect as any other. In this world, every life is precious.
Photo Credit: Myles Tan/Unsplash
This post was originally featured on The Bipolar Mama.