Bipolar Survivors Don’t Get Standing Ovations

My last official act as a teacher before retiring was to attend one last commencement ceremony. A popular teacher who had been out all year battling cancer spoke to the graduating class. Upon being introduced, he was received with a standing ovation. I stood. I then sat and admired his speech. I got a little tearful. And then I wondered.

Why don’t bipolar survivors get standing ovations?

Why don’t bipolar survivors get recognized as the courageous heroes that cancer survivors do? Why do we not look to bipolar survivors for inspiring words?

As a high school teacher diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, and general anxiety, I’ve had to scratch and claw and pull myself up from rock bottom. I’ve had three involuntary hospitalizations, an arrest, and a psychiatric evaluation ordered by the superintendent of schools.  I’ve had to face mistreatment and discrimination from colleagues and supervisors, something that rarely ever happens to cancer survivors.

I don’t want to be petty and bitter. This is just an observation.

I received teacher-of-the-year awards twice before my problems began. But I never deserved it so much as when I came back from devastating episodes.

I know cancer is a life threatening disease. But so is bipolar.  Sufferers of bipolar disorder can expect to live 10-25 years less than the general population.

The commencement speaker got a huge round of applause when he spoke of learning he was cancer free. And that’s great. I’m truly happy for him. But I’ll never be bipolar free.