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BP = disabled? -- I was asked to be part of an event about disability rights. I'm all for it, and I said yes, though I'd never thought of myself as "disabled" before. I work, socialize, basically healthy, "high functioning." Am I disabled anyway, on a technicality? (I don't mean disability benefits, I just mean as an identity/movement.) I've just been feeling mixed about embracing "disability" as part of my *own* identity. I.e., do I have to???

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I wouldn't say that you have to.  It seems like you aren't necessarily questioning the diagnosis, so maybe it would make more sense to phrase it as that you have a mental health condition that for some people can be disabling either permanently or at times, but that currently you're able to manage?  I don't know if that would still work for the event thing. 

The other thing to consider would be whether you feel like you would benefit from (or you actually get) anything in the way of accommodations/modifications to any of the things you mentioned as a result of the illness.  For example, is your employer more flexible with time off or do they allow you more than you'd otherwise get?  More helpful with allowing appointments during work hours?  Give you the opportunity to take periodic breaks or anything else that would be helpful if your doctor asks?  Those sorts of things are technically accommodations due to a "disability" or "disabling condition," even if they aren't necessarily formalized in writing.  Another variation would be if there were different periods in the life of your illness that these sorts of things existed, even if not presently.  Like if there was a hospital stay at some point a few years back and you weren't required to take paid time off/sick days for it. 

I could see a world in which it might help people at an event to know that there are people with these potentially disabling conditions who do currently work and/or volunteer and/or etc.  On the other hand, if the event is focused on helping people qualify for disability benefits, how to prove a case, etc., then it seems like it's not necessarily the right thing for you unless you did that in the past at some point. 

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You don't have to unless you want to. Others might group you in without your wanting to be included, but that's the nature of identity politics.

I consider myself disabled, for the moment at least. I can't work or attend school right now because of bipolar. When I go back to school, I'll be using disability services for exams and papers and whatever else I qualify for. 

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8 hours ago, dancesintherain said:

I wouldn't say that you have to.  It seems like you aren't necessarily questioning the diagnosis, so maybe it would make more sense to phrase it as that you have a mental health condition that for some people can be disabling either permanently or at times, but that currently you're able to manage?  I don't know if that would still work for the event thing. 

The other thing to consider would be whether you feel like you would benefit from (or you actually get) anything in the way of accommodations/modifications to any of the things you mentioned as a result of the illness.  For example, is your employer more flexible with time off or do they allow you more than you'd otherwise get?  More helpful with allowing appointments during work hours?  Give you the opportunity to take periodic breaks or anything else that would be helpful if your doctor asks?  Those sorts of things are technically accommodations due to a "disability" or "disabling condition," even if they aren't necessarily formalized in writing.  Another variation would be if there were different periods in the life of your illness that these sorts of things existed, even if not presently.  Like if there was a hospital stay at some point a few years back and you weren't required to take paid time off/sick days for it. 

I could see a world in which it might help people at an event to know that there are people with these potentially disabling conditions who do currently work and/or volunteer and/or etc.  On the other hand, if the event is focused on helping people qualify for disability benefits, how to prove a case, etc., then it seems like it's not necessarily the right thing for you unless you did that in the past at some point. 

^^ I agree with this!  Well-written, dances!

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Thanks for your posts! I had a long talk about this with an organizer today. Wow, there are sure no cut and dry answers when it comes to identity. And the way we use language is so powerful. I was thinking about accommodations, and it's true that I don't take red-eye or early morning flights because it disrupts my sleep pattern, and that's specifically related to my bp health needs. Someone bought a ticket for me recently and I had to make that clear. But it seems silly to me to telescope that kind of thing into a big problem.

Maybe, me, it's a little like how I'm Jewish: I'm kind of in on a technicality (= Jewish law) because my mom's side of the family is several-generations non-practicing Jewish. It's who I am, maybe some times more than other times; I grew up with and say some Yiddish and feel it suits me; I'm embraced and understood as part of the broader family, and it feels like it makes sense.

But- I definitely DO consider myself Jewish (but qualify that as "culturally"), and I DON'T really consider myself disabled (but now maybe I might sometimes want to qualify that too, that I'm on the "high-functioning" end of the "needs" spectrum). In the end, I'm still on the fence: I feel like, if someone considers me disabled, I'm okay with that, so long as they're not making assumptions about what I can and can't do. And I can say whatever I want!!

 

Edited by Lizzie
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A while back I had to work late shifts, which really disrupted me. My pdoc told me I could require my employer to change my hours due to my disability. I declined, partly so as not to out myself, partly because I don't consider myself disabled. But really, I am too messed up to do/have done some things I'd like to do. So which is it? Guess it depends on my frame of mind. You may have a similar situation. I like to feel capable, not disabled. Is that realistic, well,depends on the day. But I want to be the one who chooses the label, not be labelled.  

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if someone considers me disabled, I'm okay with that, so long as they're not making assumptions about what I can and can't do. And I can say whatever I wan

I can really relate to this.  I'm ok with others knowing that I am disabled, and have been.  However a little bit later, I don't like that they all knew that because they "get to" make the decisions and what I say doesn't count anymore.  I can't say much because it isn't what they want it to be.  But ... I do like when just one person listens, and figures out that my idea is a really good one and they use it.  That doesn't happen often, but I try. It is hard though.

 

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I have encountered things that have said that I should list myself as "disabled" if I have mental illnesses such as (often specifically mentioned) bipolar disorder. But I say no, because I do not identify as disabled. Rather, I see myself as largely normal as long as I take my meds (and when I am not normal, like now, it is still greatly attenuated by my meds), with the times when I have been markedly unstable for extended periods of time being due to either a) not being on meds or b) not being on the right meds, seeing being on meds that work as being the default for me.

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Wow, I can really relate to this topic.

I'm going to college soon, and I realized that it would be helpful to work with the college disability services, just to have some sort of backup plan academically if shit hits the fan.

But I guess I don't think of myself as "disabled"? Maybe that's just my bias against the idea of being disabled. I don't want to be someone who requires special attention or special treatment, but I am. I think a lot of my hesitancy to adopt the label is fear that it will change the way people think of me. Instead of being "quirky," I'll be "mentally ill". Perhaps I should work on getting rid of my negative views about being disabled.

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12 hours ago, BipolarBicyclist said:

Wow, I can really relate to this topic.

I'm going to college soon, and I realized that it would be helpful to work with the college disability services, just to have some sort of backup plan academically if shit hits the fan.

But I guess I don't think of myself as "disabled"? Maybe that's just my bias against the idea of being disabled. I don't want to be someone who requires special attention or special treatment, but I am. I think a lot of my hesitancy to adopt the label is fear that it will change the way people think of me. Instead of being "quirky," I'll be "mentally ill". Perhaps I should work on getting rid of my negative views about being disabled.

Welcome to CB!

I hope things go well for you at college, and that working with college disability services helps (if you need it).

Unfortunately, a lot of people do change perspectives about someone when they find out they are being mentally ill.  I know with me they have.  I think it would be great to use your idea on trying to get rid of your negative views about being disabled. 

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How you choose to identify is up to you. I consider myself disabled. I've been on SSDI and am in school with disability accommodations. My BP is at times debilitating enough for me not to be able to work or study or socialize normally. Although, ironically, I am considered high-functioning due to my having a 4.0 in a nursing major. But it is undeniable that it has been more of a struggle than it would have been had I not had a mood disorder, and that without my meds, tdoc, and pdoc, I would probably be dead. 

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4 hours ago, bookgirl said:

and that without my meds, tdoc, and pdoc, I would probably be dead. 

I agree with this.  I don't see a separate tdoc because my pdoc does the therapy also, but without him and my current med cocktail, I would most likely be dead also.

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I never consider Bipolar itself as a Disability. Here in the UK you can even join the army with Bipolar Disorder as long as the medication side effects don't get in the way, you've been fine for quite a while and haven't been sectioned. I mean I can't because I have been hospitalised against my will in the past. But even with that, I don't consider BD as a proper disability. It's more of an episodic disability. 

Edited by The Right Honourable Jimmy
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I've had to ask for a couple accommodations at work but I don't think of myself as disabled.  I have had episodes where I was considering going on disability because I was doing so bad for a while but I've been able to keep my job and function mostly normally, I just have a bit more internal suffering than the average person.  

 

I think it's generally a bad idea to make being disabled a part of how you define yourself as opposed to having an illness that disrupts your life.  It's easy to start feeling sorry for yourself and give up on many things.  I recently had a moderately lengthy episode where I almost gave up on myself but after my longest hospital stay to date and a significant med change I've been starting on an upward trend and I am getting back to the point where it's no longer agony to get up to go to work.  If I defined myself by my disability I would not be trying as hard as I am to lead a normal life.

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If I defined myself by my disability I would not be trying as hard as I am to lead a normal life.

I don't define myself with a disability ... I mean yes, I have one.  But I am trying the hardest I can to lead a "normal" life, regardless of having a disability, or defining myself with a disability, or not.  I wouldn't be trying any harder or any worse to lead a "normal" life.  I do what I can do to the best of my ability.

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I feel like pretty much any health condition could in theory end up translating to a disability if it impacts someone's life severely enough that they're unable to function in certain ways.  For example, it's not usually the language used around someone with cancer who is getting treatment, but at the same time, they'd likely qualify/match the description unless they had an unusually mild version.  Which I don't think really exists for cancer.

I have a friend who receives SSDI for bipolar (plus PTSD).  The government has identified her as someone with a disability to the degree that she can't work and re-certified it at a CDR recently.  So it's definitely not a "you just need to take meds and you'll be fine."  I'm sure it is for some people, but it hasn't been for her.  All that said, she still struggles with saying that she is disabled or has a disability.  And she's also going to attempt working again (not the first time, but she seems in a better position now), so if she ends up holding down a job long enough, the SSDI will evaporate.  She'd then still have the underlying disability but not be "classified" as having a disability.  Unsure how that would impact her self-perception though. 

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1 hour ago, Gearhead said:

Great link and description...and reminder that limiting a major life activity doesn't have to mean it keeps you completely from working...it can be that it causes substantial limitations in some component of it so that modifications or accommodations should be made.

for example, kids can get ADA protections because of their illness limiting them in the major life activity of "learning" (education more generally) but also if it hinders something like "safe social interactions."

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  • 5 months later...

I am somewhat changing my view on this at a personal level. Previously I had no insight whatsoever into my avolition and other negative and disorganized symptoms; I thought of my MI as an episodic illness with normality between depressive, hypomanic, manic, and mixed episodes, such that I thought of myself as essentially normal in the periods between them as long as I was on an antipsychotic to suppress my paranoia and hallucinations. This view is changing, since the avolition and like do not go away just because I am not in a mood episode and I now have insight into them; rather, from all appearances they are effectively permanent. I have realized that I effectively cannot live on my own, at least without considerable difficulty, even in normal mood. Even though I am perfectly able to work when in normal mood, I feel much more disabled than I did before now, since I now feel like I cannot live like someone without MI, aside from having to take meds, even when I am not in a mood episode, and that there is no real way out of this. I am trying to make up for this by logging all kinds of things I need to do during the day and reporting back to my best friend, who is now my accountabilibuddy (that term sounds so corny), so I can at least attempt to function outside the structure of work, but this still makes me feel like I am disabled, because normal people don't have to log when they brush their teeth just so their teeth don't rot.

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My previous therapist basically told me that bipolar was in itself a disability. How you deal with it is all that matters.

I for one, had to go on disability because I can't work. I am just too unstable. I consider myself disabled in the legal sense because I am not able to "function normally" as society would put it. Do I like labeling myself? No. So, when it comes to legalities I go with disabled, because truthfully I can't do what I'm expected to do. But in my mind, I am who I am. That's all.

Hope that made a shred of sense. ;)

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