Coming out…

In Bipolar, Uncategorized on April 18, 2011 at 1:04 am


My name is Marissa Charles and I have bipolar disorder.

There. I’ve said it. After much worry and anxiety. After thinking, and rethinking, overanalysing and losing many jobs that I have yet to apply for and sending men that I have yet to date running for the hills, I, Marissa Charles, am coming out.

Hello world. I have bipolar.

Back in the bad old days – before bipolar became a sexy term tainted with celebrity – back when it was known as manic depression, it was my family secret.

My mum has manic depression. But, not only was it an unspoken reality that we didn’t really discuss in public, at home it was referred to as being “sick.” My mum would say: “When I was sick” or “before I was sick.” If she were manic or angry, it would become: “When I was mad.”

My mum was diagnosed in 1981 when I was five. So I have lived with this illness for 30 years, although I only became an official club member in the last days of my 20s. And now, five years on, I’m declaring it to the world.

Why has it taken me so long? Because deep down I know that madness scares people. It is the plight that dare not speak its name.

Tell people you have diabetes and they might say: “Oh really?” Tell them you have cancer and they may throw their arms around you and say: “I’m so sorry,” before reassuring you that cancer can be beaten and that their aunt, dad or mum beat it and survived.

But tell them you have a mental illness and…silence. Crickets chirp. They shift uncomfortably. Then, finally, they say: “I didn’t know… But you seem so…OK.” (They mean “normal” but can’t bring themselves to say it.) One fears that they start seeing you in a different way, as though you have the word “bipolar” tattooed on your forehead.

Little did they know there was someone mad walking among them. She wasn’t walking the streets with matted hair, talking to herself, smelling like garbage and wearing holey clothes. She was holding down a job, paying her bills, driving a car and well – you can say it, go on – she was, is, normal.

So, just to clarify, to make absolutely clear that I am finally stripped of all fear and shame: I, Marissa Charles, have bipolar.

And? And I’m doing just fine. Thank you.

M x

  1. I am glad that you were so forthcoming about bringing this disease to the light. As a family member I have heard and seen the affliction of many family members who suffered from a nervous breakdown since I was a child and realized the problem maybe genetic.
    This illness put me on guard on being aware of keeping away unnecessary stresses in my life. It showed itself through my brother in his early years and made his life and the family life a living nightmare.
    Hopefully this blog will help family members and others to look closer at their family history and find ways to deal with everyday stress, which I believe plays a role in this disease.

    • Thanks so much Yvonne. That is so true. That is one of the major reasons why I have decided to write this blog and why I wanted to write a book – to highlight the fact that mental illness often runs in families. M x

  2. I’m so proud of you!

  3. This is very brave of you.

  4. Thank you Marissa for starting this blog. I hope a lot of people take some encouragement from you.
    Please keep up this blog and bring mental health problems to the forefront. I have shared this with some friends whom I know will enjoy reading your blog. Well done.

  5. BP runs in my family, I was diagnosed about 4 years ago. I asked my mom if she ever thought I had it, she replied yes, since you were little. I’ve been through a lot so far in life. I sought help and medication when it became too much to handle on my own and my new husband couldn’t deal with me anymore. Now I’m off meds and trying to keep the balance between a clever-wielding maniac and a sloth at the brink of tears. I think my father-in-law may also have it, as he is very explosive then perfectly calm, almost in the same breath. BP has many levels, apparently.

    I’m glad to have found your blog 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words Midnite Chef. I’m glad that you like the blog and I hope that we can support each other on this journey. Take care, M x

  6. It is fascinating to re-read these articles at a later time.

    I agree it is indeed an exciting feeling to be high. However, it is sad for those around me.

    I have found it to be invaluable to have to accept the fact that I have this very serious mental condition. Most of all joining the national support group and attending self-management courses have proven to be very useful.

    What I do not want is pity from others. I am aware that others will always have their own opinion if even they keep these to themselves.I anxiously await your next post.

  7. Marissa, this is a great article!

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