When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type Two in December 2014 (more on that later), I felt full of fear and despair. I feared that being “bipolar” destined me to live a life of being an unstable, unreliable crazy person.
For the first year of my diagnosis, I didn’t tell anybody about my diagnosis other than close family and friends. I didn’t want people to think of me differently or think I was crazy.
I felt desperate to connect with people who understood what I was going through, though. I started attending a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) support group in my town, and through this group, met countless other people with bipolar disorder. These people came from all walks of life: dads, young women, older people, workers, professionals, and people from every race and socioeconomic class. Despite their differences, all these different people shared the same symptoms. I began to view my condition not as my character or personality, but as a condition.
Over two years later, I am in such a better place than when I was first diagnosed. Receiving a correct diagnosis turned out to be an incredible blessing. Finally, I had an answer as to why I had always experienced both incredible periods of productivity but also periods lost to the murky fog of depression. I always knew I was different but I didn’t know why. So much made sense now!
The best part of being diagnosed, though, is that I could finally receive proper treatment! Finally, I could take the right medication, which has greatly improved my quality of life. Finally, I could start to address my condition with therapy and lifestyle changes. Diagnosis rocked my world, but the life I’ve rebuilt is far better.
As I’ve come to accept my diagnosis and learn how to manage it, I don’t feel ashamed anymore. I view my diagnosis as just another medical condition to be managed, like diabetes.
I started this blog because I want to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and to provide hope to others who struggle with these issues. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I want to show that it is entirely possible to live a full, rich and rewarding life with bipolar disorder and other mental health challenges.
Being open about my disorder is also my way of expressing gratitude for the bounty of my life. I have an incredibly supportive spouse, access to excellent medical care, a schedule which allows me to take care of myself, and a supportive village of family and friends. I have bipolar disorder, and yet, I still live an amazing life. Not everyone has this, though. All we ever hear about bipolar disorder are the terrible stereotypes. If people like me don’t provide an alternate narrative, who will?
Further, what is the point of having struggled with this illness if I can’t turn it into something good? My life looks different than I expected it to look, but it is a wonderful and fulfilling life nonetheless. My condition gives me access to people and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have, fills my heart with gratitude for the simplest things, and has given me hard-earned wisdom and perspective. As a person of faith, I believe that I have this condition for a reason. I believe God has given me both my struggles and my gifts for a reason. This blog is my way of saying, “I too struggle through this. Let’s build something beautiful together.”