I am not. . .

I am not my mental illness.

Bipolar, you call me.  Psychotic.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Pulling whatever term you wish to inflict upon me from your reservoir of labels, derogatory and damaging, yet to you, ever so descriptive.  Unknowingly.  No, you cannot be blamed.  It is a practice woven into the very fabric of our society, injected into you at birth, cultivated like a seed sprouting into maturity, as the seconds, the minutes pass.  Minutes that cannot be rewound, rewritten.  Unlabeled.  I become words, concepts, my humanity and integrity hidden behind the composition, the unfriendly connection of letters to words.

I am not my mental illness.

Bipolar.  Psychotic.  Did you know I play the piano and cello?  And have done so for years?  Or that I listen to my favorite songs – on repeat – on my iPod all day, everyday, in attempts to calm an unquiet, storming mind?  Bipolar.  The DSM 5 categorizes this disorder as a biological brain disorder, a mood disorder, characterized by periods of mania and depression, or mixed states incorporating both simultaneously.  Oh, did I mention I enjoy to write poetry?  To take walks in the park, drink green tea and read Wally Lamb at a coffee shop?  Risky behavior.  Promiscuity, impulsive spending, drug and alcohol abuse.  I will take some soy milk in my chai tea latte.  Thanks a bunch.  And toss me a copy of the New Yorker.  Should not have to shell out too much for that.

I am not my mental illness.

Words are words.  Can you believe the power the joining of alphabetical characters can have?  The, exclaimers of joy and ecstasy, or the hurtful, detrimental, irreparable effects.  Asshole, bitch, fuck.  You name it.  Oh yes, you know those words and the power they hold.  So why do you reduce the essence of a person to a word when so much more exists?  I am bipolar.  But am I bipolar?  Or am I something more?  We are programmed to see the facade, not look beyond the thin, the thin and wispy silk enshrouding the person with whom you have exercised your labeling powers upon.  Must you know, I am not bipolar.  My mental illness does not define me.  Its malignant effects plague my mind and rip my soul, but it is not solely who I am.  No.  Resoundingly no.  I have bipolar.  I repeat, it is a condition I have, not a condition I am.  There.  You have it.  I am like the rest of you, existing in the same plane.  I dare you, continue to call and label those with mental illness by their illness, strength and resilience shall arise, enveloping all and rewriting the rules of communication.

I am not my mental illness.


© 2014 Alexandra Shall


  1. Interesting article, thanks! I’ve subscribed to your website posts. Nice ideas in this blog. I agree. Welcome to Insight Choices, We are a team of mental health professionals located in the West Hollywood – Los Angeles area. Our mission is to help you thrive in spite of your mental health issues. Get in touch with us: 8265 Sunset Blvd.Suite 204 Los Angeles, CA 90046 Tel: (323) 375-0950 Fax: (323) 315-5240 Email: help@insightchoices.com Los Angeles Psychiatrist

  2. Very well said, you musician, you!

    True life is the life of the soul.The soul has its origin in the spiritual worlds of God. It is exalted above matter and the physical world. The individual has his beginning when the soul, coming from these spiritual worlds, associates itself with the embryo at the time of conception. But this association is not material; the soul does not enter or leave the body and does not occupy physical space. The soul does not belong to the material world, and its association with the body is similar to that of a light with a mirror which reflects it. The light which appears in the mirror is not inside it; it comes from an external source. Similarly, the soul is not inside the body; there is a special relationship between it and the body, and together they form a human being.

    Hence, I am not my mental illness.

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