Journal Entry: A Child’s Bipolar Story – “Hopeless”
Last night I heard my mom say she wishes maybe, I had cancer or something, instead of what I got is my bipolar. That really made me sad and made me mad! When I finally asked my mom, “why,” she said, “If only you had cancer or lymphoma or something like that. Everyone would understand, everyone would feel sorry… That would be so much easier than bipolar!” She told me I would have a greater chance of being cured and of living, of not dying. She said I’d have fun with all the flowers, balloons, toys, and special snacks! She said important people like rappers and athletes might even help me, might even do fun things for me! And if I shaved my head bald, no one would make fun, they would even say, “that’s cool.” Mom says then, insurance would cover more, and people would maybe even help me with money, if we needed it… Instead, nobody wants to give anything nice or pay any attention to a “bad” kid like me.
I’m just a waste. Is it my fault? My mom’s? My dad’s? But my doctor says I can help myself some. And my family. There are things I can do, to help my BP. So, I don’t feel all that bad. I just need people to care, too. Not just to be “sick” of my “sickness.” I want to be “normal”! I want to be well! I want to be good! I want to try! I will! But, please, please, help me and care for me, too, even if I don’t have cancer!
Author: Anonymous (2002; from the journal of a high school student who functions at the second grade)
Collected By: Ann Hull (former teacher and friend)
Editor: Shaheen Lakhan
Editor’s Note: The following journal entry portrays a child not only suffering from the disabling symptoms of psychopathology, namely bipolar disorder, the child is also facing the harsh and real impact of societal mental health stigmatization (bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and/or avoidance). Stigmatization of those inflicted with mental disorders has persisted throughout history. Such ideology has built barriers that discourage people from seeking mental health treatment and, often forgotten though significant, thwart treatment plans for those who courageously seek management. It is especially troubling in children, for they are seen in context to a larger unit (family, peer group, and their larger physical and cultural surroundings). In their age groups, human contact is essential for proper development and stigmas may deprive children of their dignity and full participation in society.
The Surgeon General, Dr. Carmona, addressed mental health in a famed and long-due report that recognizes mental illness and stigmatization as a public health dilemma. He states that that in the past 40 years, stigmas in certain context have intensified despite our improved knowledge of mental illness. He found that programs of advocacy, public education, and contact with persons with mental illness through schools and other societal institutions may reduce stigmas, in addition to active research into psychopathology. Dr. Carmona puts it best, “most importantly, [people] should become far more receptive [that] mental health and mental illness are part of the mainstream of health, and they are a concern for all people”.
Ann Hull is an educator, writer, and researcher with over 25 years of experience. She has encountered bipolar disorder in her personal family setting. Moreover, for more than eight years, Ms. Hull taught children in a special education environment, who had been diagnosed with a number of psychiatric disorders, including bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, and Tourette syndrome.