Being Bipolar is like the Wisconsin weather: wait five minutes and your mood might change 40 degrees.  Problem is, I’m no meteorologist, I don’t do Accuweather and I couldn’t find my way around a barometric pressure gauge if I even knew what one was. Wholly unpredictable.

Some people will tell you that you can control a mood disorder – I know my father thought so. But as many times as he came in my room, threw open the shades and told me get over it, I couldn’t. The “Suck it up buttercup” theory didn’t play and only served to make me feel more crazy. I’ve come to realize that when possible, I CAN push myself into doing something I know I should (exercise and vacuuming come to mind) and I do feel better –(technically I feel better after exercise but only feel less hairy after vacuuming).  So yes, I do work to feel stronger – and I exercise that muscle every day.

It seems my job living with Bipolar Disorder is to keep my head up, my hands at 10 and 2, and to tap my feet on the ground, making sure I know I’m still here. I’m also required to remember that what goes up does come down and preparing for that is in order. The trip from here to there often brings memories of the times I swore that down meant I would never be up again.  Ninety seconds in that space will make you want to upgrade to a much more glamorous mental illness. The hardest part of the job is the unknowing – the sheer unpredictability of the fast fall into night when bleak consumes and any promise of light disappears. And in the darkness there is the isolation of having to hide because the stigma is so powerful. It’s all about the game face.

I – we – are not ignorant, unaware, unsophisticated, ugly, or alone. Like the LGBT movement coming into its own, the more of us that can stand up and say – “This is who I am, and who I’ve always been” – the more the stigma loses its grip. Sadly, for many who live with mental illness, the stakes are still high. They are for me. My own fear and a still hostile society serve to delay the courage I hope to one day possess to say who I am. I told a friend recently that it was 10 times easier to come out as a lesbian, then to say, “I have a mental illness.”

For today, I write. Anonymously. I’m not ready to put my name to it but it is cathartic and helps me sort out the millions of pieces. I used to think they were all broken but I no longer do. I am not bipolar disorder – I live with it and so far, I’m still standing.

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