My alarm clock sounds, piercing the once stagnant air of my darkened room. It is six in the morning and time to wake up. Great, another day of swim practice, lectures from professors, eating nasty food, and cramming to get all my homework done. These all sum up to equal my favorite, yet most undesirable word, stress.
People have often asked me how I do it- the whole being a college student thing and somehow still having the ability to get things done on time without erupting into an inferno of flames. The truth is, I don’t have an answer for that question quite yet because sometimes I do erupt. People just don’t see it because I do my best to hide what I’m going through on a daily basis.
On many days, living with Bipolar feels like you’re riding in one of those fast sports cars down a highway as the sunsets over the horizon. One moment you’re driving a hundred miles per hour…you feel like you can do anything going so fast. You’re almost superhuman…
And then, you come to a screeching halt because something goes wrong. It’s not like one of those steady stops that you make if you’re a good driver. You slam down on the breaks and jolt forward. All of a sudden, life as you know it has spiraled downward into that beautiful, yet tragic abyss of depression.
After catching your breath for what seems like an eternity, you begin to accelerate again, reaching that same speed you were at before. Once again, you’re flying.
Somehow, I learn to live with the tempestuous person that I am. Some people tell me how “calm and collected” I seem to be, but that’s after they find out I’m bipolar. I try to take this as a compliment; however, in a way it feels almost discriminatory… like I don’t represent the “crazy” bipolar culture well enough. Maybe you just caught me on a good day?
But I am here to talk about now.
Today is one of those days where life has stopped and been put on “pause,” as if you’re some red button on a remote control. I feel like I’ve simply run out of fuel and I’m on the side of the road panicking trying to flag anyone down for help.
However, asking someone for help can be problematic in today’s age because the first thing that comes out of this person’s mouth is always the same. I like to refer to it as the universal “questionnaire”-
1. Are you suicidal?
2. Are you going to hurt someone?
3. Are you on medication?
I normally try to block out the questions because I get angry. They don’t understand. I wish those who do this could see that I’m human too- not some idiot out to get someone because I’m “crazy.”
As children, my generation was taught that we can “make the world a better place.” Although I am a firm believer of this statement, a single question arises in my mind- how are we, the younger population, supposed to make a difference when most of our education surrounding mental illness comes from the unreliable and deceptive media? I love standing in line at the grocery store and seeing “PSYCHO” or “her troubling past with psych ward admissions” printed across what seems like every popular magazine for young adults-especially those for women. How lucky of the person they are referring to for gaining front cover status! What kind of message does this send to the rising generation? What it sends is a false idea that we “unstable” individuals are not to be trusted.
Residing on a college campus while living with Bipolar can be quite difficult because it is hard to find someone who actually knows what they are talking about when it comes to us “mentally ill folk.” Education on mental illness has been continuously skewed into some misunderstanding and has thus caused an epidemic of shame. Sadly, the discrimination of those who live with mental illness has been occurring for hundreds of years and this shame has been incessantly “shoved under the rug.” People are hesitant to come forward. They fear that the people they tell will view them differently from what they did before and honestly, they will. I remember the day I first shared my story with someone. A look of uncertainty comes across their face; they called me an “inspiration” because of everything I’ve “been through.” Take this as you will; however, I don’t want to feel like an inspiration. What have I done that is so “inspiring?” I am living. I am living with what one in four Americans will experience in their lifetime. We are all secretly storytellers living in this mixed up world.
Sometimes I cry. There are still days when I feel like the world will never understand me and I should just give up what I have worked so hard on to establish. However, I know this thought is wrong. I know I am not alone in my fight to end this epidemic. We, the troubled, the weak, are called to fight in a battle, a war on humanity’s ancient and negative view on mental illness. I don’t want to be a secret anymore.
Will you join me?
Lauren is a college freshman and first became involved with Bring Change 2 Mind as a high school student when she became the youngest walk captain in our national program. Having personal experience with mental illness has helped her to gain a greater perspective on the world around her. Lauren looks at her illness as an opportunity to help others understand those who live with mental illness as well. It is her personal mission as a young person to do all that she can to help eradicate the stigma.