Bipolar disorder is both the bane of my existence and one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received. It has; nearly killed me, devastated me financially, and to some extent, ostracized me from society. Yet it has taught me compassion, forgiveness, patience and appreciation for all that is good, kind and forgiving in our world, and has also been the catalyst for a strength that I never could have otherwise known in myself.
Professionally speaking, I have been fired by employers after disclosing my illness, and threatened by directors of HR when asking for “time” to take my medication to deal with the anxiety that goes with the bipolar. I have; lived with the constant fear of the next upset that will throw my world into a turmoil once again, fought the perpetual stigma and stereotypes that go with both bipolar disorder and mental illness in general, and grieved over the hurt and devastation that it has caused interpersonal relationships and loved ones, who have stood by helplessly praying for the answers as to how they can help me with my struggles.
Through this illness, I have seen the best of humanity and some of the strongest displays of inhumanity, and have found that one “act of God”, can combat and void many, many acts of the “godless”. It has proven to me that just as with addiction or sexuality, that although the subject can be difficult enough to cope with, it is the mentality of society, the actions and beliefs of others, and our ability to find faith, that truly determine the difficulty of coping and the overall outcome of the condition itself.
I have stood by and jealously watched all the philanthropy for conditions like cancer, and wondered where the run, golf tournament, walk, gala, pink or red ribbon, or any of multiple other fundraisers and symbols were for MY illness. But, I have been given direction and a sense of hope by my passion to educate anyone who will listen, as to what bipolar disorder and mental illness are about.
People don’t realize that it is your brain that allows you to cope with other illnesses; but with mental illness, that very coping mechanism is the part that is ill. I am the lucky one: I am a mental illness survivor, as my brain learned to cope in spite of not only itself, but also in spite of so many of those around me. I only wish that they would stop calling it “mental illness”, as that term implies choice to me. Instead, I believe I simply have an illness of the brain, and that those that choose not to, or are incapable of understanding this, are the ones who are truly “mentally” ill.