For many years, I gave into a stigma that prevented me from getting proper help for the various issues that caused me to suffer. After I opened up to various healthcare professionals and was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder, I still wasn’t miraculously convinced that I needed to take care of my mental health. After much growing up and admitting myself into a hospital last year for five days due to being suicidal (gotta love the meds that make your depression worse), I began to accept my situation. While no one in their right mind would ever wish to have a mental disorder, I have come to appreciate mine for several reasons:
1. My diagnosis gave me the answers I needed.
Dealing with any medical problem, especially psychological, can be tough when you and your doctors have no idea what’s going on. After several other suggested diagnoses (and treatments that didn’t work) I was so relieved when I met my current psychologist and asked me a series of questions that seemed like he knew me my whole life. It didn’t cure me, but it did give me some sense of relief.
2. I have more patience with doctors and other mental health professionals.
I have to give it to psychiatrists. They practice a field of medicine that is not quite understood. There are no blood tests that they can give or physical symptoms that are dead giveaways for my disorder. It was as tough for me as it was for my doctors. Also, doctors and therapists can only help if their patient is 100% honest with them, which admittedly is not what I was for many years.
3. It made me be honest with myself and everyone in my little world.
After I accepted that this disorder could not be ignored and was okay with the fact that I would have this for the rest of my life, I eventually felt like I had to tell the world (or at least all my Facebook friends) what I was going through. I made a YouTube video in which I “came out” about my disorder. I surprisingly had nothing but positive feedback and people felt comfortable to open up to me about their personal demons. I recently lost a best friend because she said something horrifically insensitive about therapy only being for “crazy people” and that she doesn’t need it because “[she’s] not trying to kill [herself].” This disorder allowed me to see who my true friends are, it highlighted how amazing and supportive my boyfriend is, and emphasized the fact that if anyone says mean things about me having it, I have to let it, and them, go.
4. It gave me a community where I feel at home.
I love meeting people who have bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. We are brothers and sisters in battle; we’re constantly fighting back against our issues with doctors and (and our treatments) on our side. I talk with my fellow people with bipolar disorders on Reddit (Shout out to r/Bipolar!) and learn about issues through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSAlliance.org). Another organization that I have been involved with since accepting my disorder was the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Through my local chapter, I have spoken to teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, parents, and Juniors and Seniors at one of the largest school districts in my county. I recently spoke to four huge high school classes about how my symptoms really manifested in high school and what they can do if they are suffering from any sort of issue. Being an In Our Own Voice speaker gave me the ability to be the person to these kids that I so could have used when I was there age.
5. It showed me how I am more tenacious than I ever knew.
I spent years lying in bed crying while praying to die, but I didn’t. I had so many thoughts about how I should kill myself, but I didn’t. I endured cruel bullies, my high school telling me I was “too normal” to have issues, a therapist who just made me cry, family members telling me they didn’t believe in mental illness, and the frustration of treatments not working for me. Somehow I am still alive today and I am so glad I got my life back. I have occasional bad days here and there but I know I can make it through nearly anything after all I have overcome.