I will admit, I am one of those people who often referred to myself as being “crazy” followed by a laugh…that is until the fact I realized I was contributing to the stigma I so desperately wanted to end. So, I started to say I was “technically” bipolar. Technically? What the hell does that mean? For some reason being “technically” bipolar was easier to say as if somehow adding a qualifier made it less true or cast a doubt on the accuracy of my words. I have always lived in fear of my “secret” coming out; at first because I was afraid I might lose custody of my children; then out of fear it would damage my career as an educator. The truth was keeping this “secret”was damaging me… in the depths of my soul. Trapped in a cage of stigma while internally knowing I was meant to be an advocate for all those living with mental illness, including many of my friends and family.
Then one day, it sat across from one of my doctoral students who shared with me he is battling depression. What courage, bravery and vulnerability he exhibited in that moment. I paused as I tried to gather my thoughts and words. It was a long pause followed by a sincere admission ….”I understand, I ROCK bipolar!” Whew! I did it! I did not qualify my response with “technically” and it felt amazing, like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders…and yes, I ROCK bipolar. So often we hear we “suffer” from bipolar and trust me, some days it feels like that but overall I ROCK it! I started college at 16, earned my doctorate by 35, raised 4 children and have a successful marriage and career. I have earned professional accolades and am a published author. My illness is both a blessing and a curse. Some of my best work has been done while in a manic episode, followed by bouts of depression that test my ability to be a fighter, keep me grounded, and forever reminds me to always have empathy for others.
In my current professional role I mentor aspiring leaders and pride myself on being authentic. However, as the years progress I feel more hypocritical as I have hidden my “secret”, not very authentic if you ask me. It is time to “bring change 2 mind” in the hopes I can provide inspiration to those suffering so they too may be able to ROCK bipolar one day. So here goes…. My name is Tami and I ROCK bipolar!!!