If you wake up for work tomorrow and you’re throwing up, or you have a fever, or a sore throat, or you broke your goddamn leg trying to walk to your car, it’s very easy to tell the world that you need to take some time off to heal.
But to tell the world you need to take some time off because you’re falling from a high? Because the thought of getting out of bed is too stressful for today? Because you couldn’t sleep last night because you’re currently taken over by a hypomanic episode, so your mind is suffocating you with thoughts of completely redecorating your house and what will need to be done for work next year and how save the sea turtles? Because even though yesterday you were on top of the world, today it’s too hard to look in the mirror? Because it’s too overwhelming to be YOU today? Good fucking luck, my friend.
Any type of illness sucks, but I think it’s safe to say that mental illness takes the cake. Growing up, my world was surrounded by mental disease, so I thought my impulsive, unreasonable at times, on-top-of-the-world-today-then-scum-of-the-earth-tomorrow, not-able-to-stop-talking-for-more-than-2-seconds, “I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror” self was just a product of my environment. And I’ve always loved psychology, probably because of all the insane shit I dealt with in my first 18 years. But I never thought my love for the human brain would make me realize things about myself before anyone else did. “I know I’m bipolar, I just know it. The highs and the lows are too strong to be normal,” I would say. Crazy to think that a year ago, as I was sitting in a psychiatric facility after my first recognized mental break, a psychiatrist told me exactly that.
I’m not sure why it took me 21 years to finally get the diagnosis; I had definitely had a break before, but brushed it off when the low was over. Yes, it was terrifying to know that what I deal with day in and day out and will deal with for the rest of my life is the punch line to a lot of jokes, but I’ve never felt more relief in my life. So many years of feeling so off, so out of place, and being completely unable to explain it to anyone. So many years of ridiculous, reckless, impulsive decisions that later on, I couldn’t figure out why I did any of it. So many years of trying to be sane after dealing with all the insanity of my life, trying to be okay and normal after living in a world of chaos. And after coming face to face with my biggest nightmare and completely blaming myself for all of it. To know that it wasn’t my entire fault, and to finally be able to say that I was NOT okay, but that I was finally going to be okay, it was like I was drowning for so long and finally able to come up for air. Just hearing the word “bipolar,” and then thousands of pounds were lifted off of my shoulders. Everything finally made sense with that one, simple, completely misunderstood word.
After a heartbreak I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, a psychotic break down, 8 days in a psychiatric hospital, $1500 in medical expenses, I’m not even going to tell you how much credit card debt after a 3 week long manic episode, and a lot of fucking days reminding myself that things were going to be better, I can finally sit here and tell you: I am not bipolar.
I am me, and I have Bipolar II Disorder.
So if you’re going to take away anything from my article, take away this: mental illness is real, and scary, and frustrating, and ugly, and painful, and exhausting, and heartbreaking, but real, and that’s okay.
It’s okay to be sad sometimes. It’s okay to feel like the world is caving in on you. It’s okay to feel on top of the world, like no one can touch you. It’s okay to feel self-conscious, like the drop of a pin will shatter you into pieces. It’s okay to not want to get out of bed for a day. It’s okay to go and spend too much money on something that you’ve really wanted. But, what so many people overlook, is that it’s not okay to feel all of these feelings at once, to feel everything so hard and so full that you can’t breath. Out of all of these things that are okay, I think the thing that is the most okay is getting help when you need it and being able to live with the outcome of it. Every day I learn something new about, not only my disorder, but also just who I am as a person. I’m still always looking for the signs of a manic episode, or the triggers that will cause a low. But, it’s a year later, and I can finally tell you I’m okay.
A year later and I can finally say that I am not my diagnosis, I am not a stigma. I’m living with it, and that’s okay.