Proud to have a mental illness?

Seeking help is something to be proud of. Overcoming adversity is something to be proud of. Graduating from school or Uni, getting a job promotion is something to be proud of. Being self harm free is something to be proud of. Recovering from a mental illness is something to be proud of. Being ill though? In my opinion, that is not something to be proud of.

Recently I was (mistakenly) tagged on Facebook, along with a few other bloggers in the madosphere, in a photo that read, ‘Bipolar and Proud’. The caption for this photo, ‘If you’re not bipolar, then I’m sorry for the mistake and please untag yourself. If you are bipolar and not proud of it please untag yourself and take me off your friendlist.’

I’m not bipolar and therefore untagged myself. But ‘Bipolar and Proud,’ really? It’s like me saying ‘Depressed and Proud’ or someone else saying ‘Diabetic and Proud’ or ‘Cancerous and Proud’ which quite frankly, I find ridiculous. What I found surprising was many agreed with the sentiment. One who does not have bipolar disorder but BPD states that she’s ‘proudly Borderline’ and that ‘BPD rules’. Only two people with bipolar disorder disagreed (or were brave enough to do so), one of them being Clarissa who also wrote a blog post on this matter.

What I just don’t understand is the pride in having an illness. Speaking from a depression point of view, there is no pride in an illness that causes me to be miserable much of the time. There is no pride in an illness that causes me to cut myself and overdose. There is no pride in an illness that causes me to hurt and cause worry to family and friends. When it is said that having a mental illness is something to be ‘proud of,’ it minimises the pain and suffering that many individuals go through as a result. For goodness sake, people die from bipolar disorder. People die from mental illness. Why on earth are people proud to have an illness that causes mortality, that claims lives?

If the statement was ‘Bipolar and Not Ashamed of It’ or ‘Bipolar and Proud to be in Recovery’ I would support that fully. It’s the pride in being ill that irks me.

No doubt this is controversial and may offend some. But I needed to say it. I wouldn’t say I’m ashamed to have a mental illness, nor should I be, but I’m definitely not proud to have it either.

23 thoughts on “Proud to have a mental illness?

  1. I follow you on twitter. I agree with you here, to be not ashamed is fine, but proud is not. That’s like saying you want to stay that way. I don’t understand some people.

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks for the mention in your own post on this issue. I couldn’t agree more with you. I know that my views about this are even more controversial than those you’ve stated on my own blog, but I am beginning to tire of the sort of “girly gang” mentality that seems to apply to a great many people with mental illness. I don’t want to be ill (which I currently am AGAIN as of today’s hideous tone). I never thought at the age of 35, with so much immense promise and talent, I’d be sitting here writing a fucking blog about being mentally ill. But, I have to keep telling myself that there is a reason for all of this and that I just have to find the positives…

    So yes – it annoys me intensely when I take my own recovery so seriously and hear people making comments that having Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar “rules” or in one case – “rocks”. Fucking ROCK the fuck off you twats – if you were mentally ill in the first place, you’d be a lot less happy about it all. Argh fuck it – I need to go and eat some chocolate and calm down.

    Sorry for the swearing, but I’m quite pissed off with everything.

    Thanks again for the mention – will put something on my post about yours.

    X Clarissa X

    • Er – I meant the views you’ve stated on your own blog are a little less controversial than those upon mine on my blog… Just realised my annoyance caused me to make a mistake in my former comment…


  3. I think the Proud issue probably comes from a desire to feel you have power over your “condition”. I agree, definitely not something to be proud of. To me it’s the same as saying I’m Proud to have Cancer. I’d be proud to be a cancer survivor but not to have it.

    • That analogy rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Some people believe that mood disorders are just chemical imbalances, and they should be treated with drugs, and drugs alone. I happen to disagree with that theory, as out enviornment greatly shapes us. In that sense, though, Bipolar Disorder can really be just be a facet of who we are, of our personality.

      I’ve been diagnosed with Cyclothymia, and I do not particularly enjoy the mood swings I go through. However, I’m also an Introvert. I am not proud of either, but people tell me I should be proud of the latter. My question is- how are they so different? If Bipolar disorder is genetic–again, going with a theory I don’t agree with–how is it any different than introversion?

      • Well how I see it, if bipolar is genetic, it is very different to being proud of being an introvert. The reason being- introversion is part of your personality, and not an illness. Being an introvert does not cause you to jump off buildings with the belief you can fly in episodes of mania. Neither does it cause you to become so depressed that you try to kill yourself.

  4. I agree- I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of, but being proud is something different altogether. That being said, I’d like to know more about what the original poster meant in saying “proud”? I’m all for accepting who we are and what we were given in life–i.e., the cards that we were dealt–and believe that however we come to terms with that acceptance is fine. If by saying they are “proud” of having Bipolar Disorder, they are “proud” (and indirectly accept) of who they are, then I see nothing wrong with that specifically, only in the terminology used. I guess this comes down to semantics.

  5. That’s a very astute observation– there is a difference between “proud” and “not ashamed.” A HUGE difference. Good for you for making your opinion known here.

    Wishing you well,

  6. I completely agree … I’m not ashamed to admit it, I don’t hide it but I don’t have it stamped on my forehead…

    btw- could you email me your email so I can send you an invite to read my blog ( i made it private ) . I’d like to keep in contact 🙂


  7. They didn’t like people disagreeing with the view at all. I posted a reply to that picture as I was also tagged, but I noticed it had been deleted. I said that whilst I wasn’t ashamed of my mental health problems, I couldn’t be proud of something that had cost me so much in opportunities, experiences, and just life generally. It has destroyed my life – how can I be proud of that? x

  8. I completely agree. Fortunately I don’t have a diagnoses of bipolar as such, however in no way am I proud of the struggles I have to go through on a daily basis. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved despite the problems mental illness throws in my way, and I’m proud of my recovery so far. But I’m not proud of having difficulties in the first place.
    I guess bipolar is becoming a fashionable diagnoses now, just as much as some eating disorders were bizarrely seen as glamorous for a while (puking blood glamorous lol?) and there were “Proud anas” etc. It’s the wrong attitude. Well done for saying this, and to Clarissa too, as her post on the subject is really very admirable.

  9. i agree with you on this one. Im not proud to have BPD, id rather not have it because of the hurt it has cost me and my family. At the same time im not ashamed to admit i have a mental illness. It makes people realise im not doing it for attention i suppose.

  10. Perhaps people feel proud of themselves for somehow getting through life with such a debilitating and destructive illness, not because they have the illness. I have bipolar and am trying to be proud of myself for all of the things I’ve achieved through much adversity and to feel like I can be open with anyone about the illness without caring what they think about me. It’s very difficult as I often feel like a lesser person due to the stigma around mental illness and I’m determined to get to a point when I don’t feel like this anymore.

    I don’t believe that ‘Bipolar and Proud’ necessarily means that they are proud of having bipolar as such, or maybe it does, but I think for some people they are bipolar and still proud of themselves, which is great in my opinion. It looks like there are two interpretations of that phrase!

  11. Pingback: >Why Being Bipolar is Not Clever, Cool or Desirable – Response to "Bipolar and Proud" on Facebook « Just Difficult

  12. This is a really interesting debate and one that I only just stumbled across – I know the thread’s a few months old now, but I felt the need to post, if for no other reason than to get a little bit more clarity in my own head.

    I’ve been suffering from depression for some 7 years or so, and I completely understand where many of you are coming from in your questioning of the word “proud” in this instance. I’ve been on and off my medication twice, am currently on my third stint and doing well, and by no means do I take my – or any other – mental illness lightly.

    But the reason I came across this thread is that I’ve been thinking about starting a blog called Depressed And Proud.

    For starters, as a copywriter, I absolutely see where the ambiguity lies with the use of the word “proud”. In my instance, I came across the blog idea because I was thinking about my own illness and how open about it I’ve become. If people mention depression in passing, I’ll happily give my side of the story. If others use the classic “Why don’t they all just cheer up?” line, I’ll defend the illness. And I’m always ready to help people, however I can, if they’re in the same boat.

    Where I’m coming from, though, and I hope this is also where the original author of the quote is coming from too, is that I know how healthy it is for me to confront my illness, head on. I’m less embarrassed and afraid of my illness than I’ve ever been and I’m getting stronger all the time. So, while I’m not proud in the literal sense of the word, I am proud in the sense that I’m as far away from being ashamed of my disease as ever. And if I’m not ashamed, I’m proud. It might seem like an inappropriate play on words, given the severity of some people’s experiences with mental health issues, and I understand why it’s caused some distress.

    However, I think the most important thing about overcoming mental health disorders is to be able to make statements like this. To be able to react positively to your disorder, admit it, confront it, accept it – in every way possible – is something that should always be encouraged.

    I wish you all the very best.

    • Interestingly your comments align with a case study i am writing about an 18 year old who has switched from feeling massively stigmatised to taking ownership of her illness. I struggle using the word proud and decided I wouldn’t it just isn’t the right fit and diminishes the pain and hurt mental illness causes… it’s not like being ‘gay and proud’… thought the stigmatisation is clearly similar. I agree with your point of empowering people to confront, accept, admit to disorders… Being proud implies a need to defend the right of the disorder to exist… and i don’t think anyone who truly suffers would defend that… Depression – no shame? I can see why its contentious.

  13. I have BPD and I am proud of it! Proud in the sense that I have extreme empathy and compassion for people and pride in myself for seeking help and trying to show others that BPD is nothing to be ashamed of, so that more people will not be afraid to seek help. I am proud to try eliminating stigma around BPD and clearing up misconceptions that people have around BPD. I am definitely not glad that I have it, and if I could wave a magic wand and make it go away, I would do it in a heartbeat. I want others to know that they are not alone in having this. I always thought that I was the only one in the entire world like me. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way if I can help it. Hugs to everyone suffering with this. I know how you feel. Please check out my website and help spread the word so that others will know how to respond to us with compassion for our pain and not ignorance and blame and shame.

  14. Other than the possibilities of the mistakes in wording, it is possible that this person is just trying to make him/herself feel better about having such a disorder which he/she probably couldn’t cope with. I know that leaving such a message on a public social media site such as facebook is probably not the smartest thing to do and definitely isn’t a realistic approach to dealing with such a problem. But chances are either this person gave up fighting against this condition, and chose to take the stance of being in denial of its potential to be harmful. Another possibility is that this was written in a state of mania caused by the disorder, which impairs the ability to think rationally or to make good judgments.

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