“Above all, be the heroine of your life not the victim.”

February 25th 2013, I laid next to my son’s bed and prayed God would please help me. I then awoke, handcuffed, in the ER and remained hospitalized for over 6 weeks. There I was diagnosed Bipolar 1.

What lead up to the hospitalization was a series of events, I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Undiagnosed depression and self-medicating with prescription pain pills over the months had left me feeling drained and worn out. About 6 months prior I had had a serious wakeboarding accident that shattered my leg. It had required immediate surgeries and hospitalization. Similar to my manic episode that left me hospitalized unexpectedly.        

I didn’t think twice about sharing about my broken leg. Showing off my wound had brought support and strength during a difficult recovery. With my recent diagnosis, there were no wounds or scars though. With mental illness you’re left with only your imagination, assumptions and whatever you may have overheard. I’m humbly sharing this in hopes of reducing the stigma and silence that surrounds mental illness. Speaking out doesn’t have to be scary, it can actually be very empowering, if we choose it to be.   

One of my college professors once told us, “we all have a terminal illness” for some reason that always stuck with me. We are all in this together in some way or another. If we speak out, then together we can learn about this non curable, yet very treatable disease. With proper management and most importantly forever taking our medications, we are free to live full and productive lives, just as God intends. By managing my illness, I can continue to live a beautiful life as wife, mom, friend, small business owner and college graduate. Sure, I’ll still make mistakes, may even cry in public and continue to be completely horrible at Zumba. My Type A personality accentuated with a dose of a go getter attitude isn’t going anywhere though. My personality does not make me Bipolar. Mental illness can’t be diagnosed by appearance alone. When is the last time you told someone with cancer, you knew it was coming? Mental illness is a chemical imbalance of the brain that’s tested through blood work.

I’m NOT sharing my story as a victim expecting cookies to arrive at my front door (although, with this medication, I would eat them all.That’s another story). I understand that each one of us is dealt with difficult hardships. That’s life. I am sharing this to raise awareness and education. To know that with proper management we can get through this. I’m sharing this because I believe in a way, for me, it could be a blessing in disguise to change my life around, however odd that sounds. But having bipolar has encouraged me to return to church, quit drinking, eat healthier, exercise daily, be grateful for my family and friends and it has truly helped me to be thankful for each day. Spiritually, I’ve never felt better. This experience has brought me closer to God with prayer and with complete faith he’d get me through my darkest moments when I felt alone. With faith and hope we can get through this together.

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