I'm in my early thirties and a recovered addict with a former diagnosis for bipolar disorder with psychotic features. However, I've been sober for five years, off all medications for four, and completed several years of therapy. I have done everything within my power to turn my life around, and despite what is commonly believed to be the case in the medical literature, I believe that even severe mental disorders like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are curable under the right conditions. I believe I am living proof of that.
I used to be a pre-med student, but have recently started looking into studying commercial aviation. However, according to the FAA's website, I suffer from an incurable and disqualifying medical condition:
"Certain medical conditions such as a psychosis, bipolar disorder and severe personality disorder automatically disqualify a pilot from obtaining an FAA medical certificate and prohibit them from flying. However, many pilots have conditions that are treatable."
I know I will never have another psychotic episode, but, unfortunately, that assertation is what you would call "unfalsifiable" in scientific terms.
Is this FAA policy legal under the ADA? I'm a strong person with unwavering convictions. I don't let the opinions of others and the stigma associated with mental illness sway me. With that said, I'm not going to lie. Learning about this policy hurt. It still hurts.
- After further research, I read that all medical clearances for bipolar disorder are automatically denied or deferred. I still don't know what that deferral process entails and how likely an appeal is to succeed.
Ironically, another profession that deals with the safety of others on a regular basis, and from which the FAA draws upon to make medical clearance decisions, does allow for people with a history of bipolar disorder to enroll in its ranks. According to this article: https://www.statnews.com/2017/10/16/doctors-mental-health-licenses/, there are physicians with a history of mental illnes working in the U.S. and, "Revoking licensure or otherwise preventing a physician from working due to mental disorders is actually illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act."