I have been struggling again as of late, with depression. It sucks. I am tired of taking medication. I am sick of being bipolar, and I wish I could have someone else’s life right now. Can you tell I am having a pity party these days?
For those of you who don’t know my story, here it is. When I was thirty-one years old, I was diagnosed bipolar. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. It’s a truth that I am proud to share, and I hope it will give you pause to realize mental health is not about mental weaknesses, or lack of character or even about mental disorders. Mental health is about medical health, it’s a disorder of the human body and as such it deserves a post from me this week.
Being bipolar is not something I focus on a lot these days. I admit life is good for me. I don’t struggle often with debilitating depression or spend my days in the grips of mania. No, for me these days it’s pretty smooth sailing, a fact that I am grateful for every day.
But life hasn’t always been that way for me. There were many years that were an absolute nightmare. Really, a living nightmare. I was suicidal. I struggled with debilitating anxiety. I had many a sleepless, manic night. For me, life was one long endless day of agony. I could barely function.
But people didn’t know that about me. I was good at hiding my misery behind endless smiles and “I’m good,” responses to the “How are you’s,” we ask of each other.
I was dying inside, but no one knew it. I don’t know why I didn’t share. I think I was embarrassed and more than a little bit ashamed of my condition. If people saw what was going inside of me, I was pretty sure they would lock me up.
In fact, one afternoon while visiting a friend in the hospital, I stopped on the wrong floor and realized that I was on the psychiatric unit. A sense of shame and embarrassment filled me. This was me, though no one knew. I was crazy and that understanding filled me with shame.
Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. Loathing for myself. These were the emotions that filled my thoughts and feelings about myself every day. And so I suffered on and on in silence.
People have asked me why I’m so up front about my diagnosis. It’s because I’m not ashamed any more. I’m not embarrassed, and I don’t loathe myself. I am healthy. I am on medication that works for me, and I love life.
I don’t want one person to have to suffer silently like I did those many long years. You can recover. You can lead a healthy and productive life. Stop trying to hide behind those fake smiles and “I’m all rights.” Most importantly remember, there is hope. There is always hope. So, reach out and get the help you need and stop living life in the shadows. Step into the light of the truth that being mentally ill is not your fault and let that truth set you, your mind and your heart free forever.
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