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I Feel Stigmatized for Having Bipolar Disorder

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Apr 03, 2019

Question

Salam. I have been diagnosed with bipolar. I think it runs down the family. However, my father, who is aggressive, has always reprimanded me from taking the help that’s available.

I got married but failed to inform my now supportive husband about my case. I feel he has been hurt. I was so busy, working various shifts.

People in the Pakistani community refuse to accept the diagnosis as it’s associated with stigma. I feel I have hurt my husband’s feelings. Once he asked me about the medications I’ve been taking, so I told him. I am currently in the correct medication. However, family keeps forcing me to go to the psychiatric center. I really need some advice because this destroys my confidence.

I eat healthy, walk every day, and keep a diary. I try to pray and maintain hygiene but my husband is from back home, thus, neither he understands nor he is emotionally supportive. In addition, I have lost family and friends. I feel alone.

Counselor

Answer


I Feel Stigmatized for Having Bipolar Disorder

In this counseling answer:

•Even if your father, husband, family, or community are against you getting treatment, please continue. 

•Educate your family about Bipolar Disorder.

•I kindly suggest insha’Allah that you sit down with your husband and apologize again for not informing him prior to marriage.

•Join a support group to meet others who share in your struggles as well as learn of their successes.

Build upon your relationship with Allah.


As Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns. Having Bipolar Illness is not easy, dear sister, but it is manageable with the correct treatments. Many people, – 60 million worldwide, according to the World Health Organization have Bipolar Disorder. Thus, you are not alone in your struggles.

Sister, you do need a supportive, compassion network of family and friends who are conducive to your healing, not detrimental. It is extremely sad (and bothersome) that your father is more concerned with social appearances rather than your seeking treatment. 

Mental Health and Stigma

As you discussed, the people in your community refuse to accept such a diagnosis as it is associated with stigma. No wonder you did not tell your husband prior to marriage!

Sister, I’m not sure how long you’ve had Bipolar Illness, nor what treatment modalities you are on, but I would kindly suggest insha’Allah that you make every effort to continue with your treatments. Even if your father, husband, family, or community are against you getting treatment, please continue.  Insha’Allah, you are aware that treatment is necessary for you to live a stabilized and happy life.

 A lot of my clients have faced stigmatization over various illnesses. Stigmatization is a very cruel and destructive concept which when acted out can result in devastating consequences. It is sad and ignorant to a point when one is stigmatized for having an illness. I used to tell my clients that there should be no shame in their diagnosis. I asked them to look at it as if they were to have high blood pressure, diabetes, or other illnesses; would the shame and stigma still exist? I’m sure it would not.

Advocacy

What most people do not realize is that the mind, body, and spirit are one. An illness or disorder can take place in any of the three. We must nurture our bodies as a whole. This means taking care of any illness or injury that may take place- without shame. Having a mental illness is not a shameful thing. It is just an illness which has affected a portion of the brain rather than the blood vessels, kidney, etc. 

I also advise my clients that they should be proud that they are strong and healthy enough to get through the trials that this life gives everyone. We all have different tests and trials, sister. This one just happens to be yours.

Trying to change how people feel regarding certain illnesses is difficult given strong cultural beliefs. Well, I’m not asking you to try to change your community or even your family. What I am asking is that you do educate them.This is a form of advocacy for self as well as for mental health. The more you know about your disorder, the more you can teach others.

I’m willing to bet that there are many in your community who do have Bipolar Illness as well as many other mental health issues. When people don’t talk about Mental Health, stigmatization will remain. The more things are brought out into the open and normalized as a human condition, stigma may be reduced, insha’Allah.


Check out this counseling video


You are no less of a person, nor are you any less of a capable human being because of your illness. In fact, people with Bipolar Illness have scored higher on intelligence tests, creativity, as well as other measures. So, while you may have some issues to deal with concerning your bipolar illness, it also comes with accelerated benefits.

Maintaining Treatment

Sister, please do insha’Allah speak with your counselor about getting involved in a support group for those with bipolar illness. If you are inclined, also ask about any advocacy groups that you can get involved with to help educate your family and community. This may be very empowering for you.

Additionally, as you feel you are on the correct medication, I’m wondering why your family keeps forcing you into the Psychiatric Center. I would discuss this with your counselor so you can get a clear-cut response as to why this keeps happening.

It should not be that whenever your family disagrees with you, or whenever they feel like it that they can just put you in the Psychiatric Center. I agree that if it is not needed, it will hurt your confidence. If it is not needed, thismust be stopped. If there is validity in your being put in the Psychiatric Center, you may want to ask your counselor if you are, indeed, on the correct medication or if you need a medication adjustment or change to prevent this from happening. 

To prevent a relapse and subsequent admittance into the psychiatric center, often times medications may need to be adjusted from time to time in order to maintain stabilization. Please, do ask your counselor about this.

Love in Times of Illness

I can imagine that your husband may be hurt over the fact that you did not tell him you had Bipolar Illness as it is a form of deception. However, given the stigma in your community, it should be no surprise that you did not mention it.

While Islamically you should have told him, it is understandable why you did not. If you were living in a community where people were not stigmatized for having an illness, I am sure you would have told him.

I kindly suggest insha’Allah that you sit down with your husband and apologize again for not informing him prior to marriage. Ask for his forgiveness, but also inform him that due to the stigma in the community you were afraid to tell him if this is the reason. Insha’Allah, educate him on Bipolar Illness, its prevalence as well as the fact that despite your illness you are still capable, intelligent, loving, and above all a righteous, pious Muslim and wife.Insha’Allah, he will be a good Muslim as well and be very supportive and loving of you.

As a good Muslim, he will want to see you progress in life and be stable. As a good Muslim, he will not stigmatize you for something that is not your fault. As a good Muslim, he will look at this as an illness that can be treated and will support you fully in your stabilization and continued healing.

Healthy Living and Supportive Paths

Sister, insha’Allah please do continue to live a healthy lifestyle by eating good foods, exercising, journaling and building your self-esteem and confidence. 

Join a support group to meet others who share in your struggles as well as learn of their successes. There is power and growth in sharing experiences. You will also learn how to deal with family members, community and the stigmatization which is rampant. Others who are on this journey, too, can be a big help, insha’Allah.

Build upon your relationship with Allah. Keep your prayers, go to the mosque for prayers, attend Islamic events and recite Qur’an. Seek out compassionate, loving sisters for friendships and social times. A solid support system is vital. As Muslims who follow Islam and love our most compassionate prophet (PBUH), this should not be an issue. 

There are blessings in striving for our Islamic duties and goals. Remember that Allah loves you, and is always with you, sister. While others may turn their backs in ignorance, your Lord is ever merciful and loving.

We wish you the best, 

Salam

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Wife is Agressive & Schizophrenic: How to Help?

I Think I Have Bipolar Disorder, What Should I Do?

Avoiding Social Interactions Like The Plague




About Aisha Mohammad

Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word poetry projects.

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