I’ve been living with bipolar disorder since I was 14 years old, in 1999. It has never been easy, but I’ve made it through with the help of my family and friends. I turned to drugs at age 12, which probably triggered the beginning of my episodes. I started seeing a psychiatrist and began taking medication in 1999. The best thing I had going for me was that I was always honest; I told on myself any time I did something I shouldn’t have. I have always felt the need to be honest. I was truthful about how I was taking care of myself. I always took my medications as prescribed, I went to every doctor’s appointment, and was honest with my psychiatrist/psychologist about the drugs I was using. I was even willing to admit myself to a psychiatric unit when necessary. I did these things, but was never happy about it.
I was never really ashamed of my diagnoses, but I wasn’t willing to tell people. I know it was mostly obvious, especially since I was a cutter for many years, but it wasn’t something I wanted to shout from the rooftops. I remember feeling worried what my friends and family would think. I told my immediate and extended family, and I received unconditional support from everyone. I even had a few family members take the NAMI Family to Family classes so they could better understand what I was going through.
After I got sober in 2004, I began a life across the country. I got a great job and I even received a fantastic promotion after 1 year. I kept my mental health diagnoses mostly to myself. I was concerned of what my co-workers and my friends from the 12-step program I attended would say. I had a couple experiences where I felt looked down upon when people found out about my mental health, however, I think most of it was in my mind.
In 2009, I had an episode that was so extreme, I had to leave my job, move back in with my mother, and go on disability. At this point, I couldn’t hide anything, and I decided it would be too much work to try. As it turns out, most people didn’t even think twice about it. I even found several people that lived with the same things, these people became my friends. I became comfortable with my diagnoses; now, I don’t care who knows about my mental health. If someone thinks differently of me because of my mental health, then that’s their problem and their ignorance. It has taken a long time, but I have finally become comfortable with my diagnoses. Even though I struggle daily due to my mental health, I also feel that it has made me stronger.
It may have taken me many years to become comfortable with this part of who I am, but now that I have, I can spend my time and energy working on myself instead of trying to hide myself. Becoming secure with my diagnoses has allowed me to truly live my life. To manage my mental health I continue to take medication as prescribed, follow-through with all treatments, be honest with my friends and family, try to stay productive, find things I’m passionate about (I enjoy cooking, cleaning, and hiking), try to keep on a schedule, and try to get a good night’s sleep. None of these things are easy, but if I regularly work towards these goals, life becomes easier.
I am blessed with family and friends that support me no matter what. My husband, mother, and other family encourage me to do things that are healthy for me. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would never leave my house or see any friends. It is because of their love and support that I can accept myself for who I am. My bipolar disorder and other mental health diagnoses are only a part of who I am, they do not define me or dictate my life.