I don’t really like the term mental illness. Bipolar is really just an illness. We don’t say respiratory illness, insulin illness, brain illness, stomach illness, flu illness. We generally just say illness. Also, a mental illness is defined as an illness of the mind. I’m not so sure that is what bipolar is. The mind is the active projection of the brain that creates the experience of consciousness, the intellect, our thinking. The way we think can greatly influence the way we behave and even affect the state of our brain. So if bipolar is an illness of the mind, then we should be able to think our way out of it. Right?
And that’s where the misunderstanding begins with mental illness. “Cheer up. Think happy thoughts”, we say to someone with clinical depression. “Meditate to calm your mind.”, we say to someone who is manic. Do you know what happens when someone in the midst of a manic episode tries to meditate? They think it’s giving them super powers. They do it for long periods when they should be sleeping. They talk incessantly about it.
Although there is a growing body of evidence of mind/body dependence, ultimately bipolar begins with the brain, not the mind. Bipolar is a neurological disorder, not an emotional problem or a mental problem. Those are bi-products, not the illness. Which means that it is actually a brain or neurological illness, not a mental illness…whatever that is. It’s an illness that does affect our mind, but it is not created by our mind. At least that’s how I see it. But to prevent confusion and so as not to have to go on a diatribe every time the word mental is used, I will stick with mental illness.