Six years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I always knew there was something different about me, I just never knew what it was. I often felt depressed and anxious, and other times, very chatty and overly happy. When I was diagnosed (it was my parents who noticed the mood swings), I was more relieved than anything. After years of feeling like I was just weird, I finally had a diagnosis that made sense.
For those who don’t know, bipolar disorder is defined as “a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.” For me, I cycle about every 8 months, from feeling really depressed, then stable for a short period, then hypo-mania sets in. I have severe difficulty with holding down a 9-5 job, or even a job longer than a year for that matter. Having a routine is great, but at the same time, I strongly dislike having a schedule.
The longest and worst depression I can remember was actually last summer, after moving to California. Such a dramatic life-changing event triggered a depression that lasted from April through the end of September. I didn’t leave my apartment. I barely even left my bed. In October, I became stable. It is such a weird feeling.. thinking back to just a few weeks prior and thinking it’s so strange how I couldn’t physically do anything, yet when stable, it’s no problem. Does that make sense? Like even now, thinking that I could barely get myself out of bed to take a shower.. I was a completely different person. But that’s what bipolar is- two poles. Two people. Two worlds.
Now I am in a manic episode, and luckily I have an amazing psychiatrist in LA who is helping me to calm it. Mania is somewhat better than depression in some regards, but it’s really the same as depression, but opposite. Okay that probably doesn’t make sense, but it does to me. Depression and mania are both dangerous. They both physically hurt. I barely have control in either state. With mania, I say it’s somewhat better because at least I can function. I’m able to leave my apartment, babysit, work at the wellness center, etc. But the lack of control is rough. My biggest issue during mania is spending money. During a manic episode, I can’t have any credit/debit cards or cash on me. After over $12K in debt (from age 18-26), I have finally figured that one out.
The reason behind World Bipolar Day is to create awareness and end stigma associated with mental illness, or as I prefer to call it, mental health conditions. It’s interesting realizing that I let the stigma affect me, even if I say I don’t. I’m very open and honest about bipolar, and my experiences with it. I am not ashamed of who I am (I was for the longest time.. probably until about a year and a half ago). But even as I write this, I am asking myself, “Should I really be this open on my public blog? My blog is focused on nutrition and fitness.. will my followers think less of me for having bipolar disorder?” And that’s so silly! If someone were to judge me for having bipolar disorder, that is their issue, not mine. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
The way I look at it now, I feel that I have a gift to offer to the world. Yes, I am emotional, sensitive, often unstable, dramatic, a little off-the-wall.. but those traits are what make me, me. Because of my emotional and sensitive personality, I feel that I am able to connect with people on a much deeper level. I can truly feel their feelings when we talk. I can help people at their lowest point because I’ve been there.
Plus, having bipolar helps me to be creative. One of my all-time favorites quotes is from Alice in Wonderland:
“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
This World Bipolar Day, March 30, 2014, I invite you to learn a little bit more about mental health conditions. Ask a friend with bipolar what they love about it. If you know someone who could be suffering from a mental health condition, find a way to get them help. If you have bipolar disorder, take some time for yourself, get a journal, and truly reflect on how amazing you are! Share your story with someone. Tell a loved one with bipolar disorder why you love them. Whatever it is, spread positivity, love, and acceptance for not only people living with bipolar disorder, but for everyone. All of us needs each of us. Much love to you all! <3