Bipolar · mental health · stigma

Delusions, Stigma, and Shame

Even though people are starting to be more open about mental illness these days, there is still a lot of stigma attached to Bipolar Disorder. Next to Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder is considered one of the worst mental illnesses to have. People with Bipolar 1 (which I have) can have symptoms of psychosis along with delusions during full-blown mania, which can get confused with Schizophrenia. It’s happened to me.

I had feelings of shame because several people had stopped being my friend during my last manic episode. I could fill a whole book with my delusions, but what it boils down to is this: I strongly believed that I was cursed. Along with that, I was convinced that I had a psychic connection with a distant acquaintance. I was obsessed with them. I was fixated on these delusions. I couldn’t stop talking about it with my friends. These obsessions overtook my mind, to the point that I was no longer able to function or take care of myself. It took me a very long time to accept the reality that this person barely knew who I was, and didn’t want to know me. People called me a stalker. I felt humiliated to be thought of that way. I felt like a social pariah. Some of my friends blocked me on Facebook, and ghosted me when I texted or called them.

To be honest, it took me years to accept reality. My delusions had persisted for years. That’s another thing I’m ashamed and embarrassed about, the length of time and the amount of energy that was devoted to my delusions. Although reality was painful to accept, I no longer spend all my time and energy obsessing over my delusions anymore. I realize the ideas were false, and I have stopped feeding into it. It was a toxic cycle that I had to break. But it wasn’t easy for me. The reason it took so long, is because there were times that I did accept reality and then, the delusion came back. There were times when I was not convinced that it was entirely a delusion. There were times when I hovered between delusion and reality.

I wish that more people would be comfortable enough to talk about delusions and psychosis as a result of mania. I haven’t seen much information on the topic. It can be humiliating and painful to realize that the things that were so real to you, have no basis in reality. I felt that I couldn’t even talk about this subject, because I was so embarrassed and ashamed. Maybe that’s why I don’t find many other people talking about it.

I am grateful to have a really good psychotherapist now, who has helped me realize that these symptoms I have had have a physiological basis. It is the result of neurological changes that developed when I wasn’t taking medication. Talking with her helped me to realize this, and to feel less ashamed. I have been taking my medication regularly, and have currently achieved mental stability. At the moment, people in my life don’t think I’m crazy. But I know that if I were to cease medication, these symptoms could come back.

If this post could help one person who has experienced these symptoms feel less alone, I would be happy about it. Have you ever had a delusion? Do you feel comfortable talking about it? If so, please leave a comment or use the contact page!