personality parting lessons

Using Language to Understand Whether I ‘Am’ Bipolar or ‘Have’ Bipolar Disorder

Being diagnosed with a mental illness was a major existential challenge for me. Where my asthma is confined to my lungs and my eczema to my skin, my bipolar disorder calls into question the very concept of who I am.

It challenges my identity. In responding to that challenge, I realized that I can use language to see myself in two different ways.

In the first, I understand myself as separate from the illness. I could say, for example, “I have bipolar disorder.” Using the illness as a noun implies that there’s a person and there’s an illness and that the illness is something to be possessed by the person.

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