Why My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me

I’ll come right out and say it first, so you can get an idea of where this article is going. I am a survivor of bipolar disorder. I was heartbroken when the doctors told me this diagnosis. I thought it explained a lot, yes. But I felt helpless and terrible, and that no one would love me. I felt like I would never be a good parent. I’d be forever bound by the chains of a mental illness, something that was inside my head.

You’re probably wondering why I call myself a survivor. It’s because every day I can triumph over my worst enemy (myself), it’s a good day. Every day I don’t feel depressed and worthless, it’s a good day. Every day I don’t go out and blow tons of money, it’s a great day.

I wish every day were like that. I wish I felt totally and completely in control of my life (and therefore my emotions), at all times. But I don’t, and that’s the struggle of having any mental illness, not just bipolar disorder. There are many mental illnesses out there, and they all get a bad wrap for one reason or another. Bipolar people are told that they’re crazy. Depressed people are asked “can’t you just be happy?” Borderline people are seemed as selectively antisocial. And it’s because of these very stereotypes that people who suffer from these illnesses do not want to be with people. They risk humiliation and shame by opening up about their illnesses. Well, I’m tired of feeling like that. Do I agree that people should just accept me for the way I am, and I can just be livid one day, and ecstatic the next? No. Do I use my bipolar disorder as an excuse? Absolutely not. But by opening up to people about it, they can start to connect the dots of why I am the way I am. And if people can’t accept that at face value, I walk away.

Let’s be clear about this. I do not do awful things or say awful things and then go “well, I have bipolar disorder and that’s just who I am.” I do not let my mental illness define me. I know just as well as everybody else when I am being difficult, and I feel guilty about it. I kind of feel like a 14 year old because I’m still learning how to communicate in a healthy way. When you get on that roller coaster, it’s hard to get off. Everything accelerates in your mind. It’s the typical snowball effect. The way I’ve learned to stop this is to have an amazing support system. Someone who can help me stop the roller coaster in its tracks. Whether you believe it or not, there will be someone to take that phone call at 2 AM. There will be someone to answer your texts. The trick is that you have to make the effort. You have to reach out. By reaching out, you’re not being cowardly, quite the opposite in fact. You are being bold and strong by reaching out to someone. Whether it’s just to talk and that person listen, or needing advice, you’re taking a huge step in the right direction.

Like I mentioned before, I do not let my mental illness define me. I have gone through a very difficult life, and I’d like to say I’m a  survivor in life (I’ll touch on that in future blog posts). I used to be consumed by my dislike for people, for myself, and for life. But I’ve learned a few things about myself. I started reading articles written by people with bipolar disorder through social media. They came out right away, not trying to hide anything. They accepted it, and sometimes even embraced it. When kept in check, bipolar disorder doesn’t actually have to be a disorder.

Being bipolar has opened up many new doors for me, mostly good but not all of them. For example, I feel empathy for people very easily. I feel love deeper. I buried myself in my studies and strived to be as intelligent as I could be, and I still do. I’m never done learning, and I love having that drive. I’m also a talented musician. I studied in college. I feel music as if it were an emotion. I can be anything I want to be, and do anything I want to do, because I have the determination, focus, and passion for many things. I get bored easily, which drives me to do something to get myself interested in something new. I’m extremely competitive (almost to a fault), but I’ll never settle for anything less than great (because obviously perfection cannot be attained). Contrary to my belief (any many others’), I’m a great mom. I’m strong, disciplinary, but I could never be cruel. I’m fair, but not unjust. I know what it’s like to have an awful childhood, and I will do anything I can (within reason), to make sure that my daughter gets every opportunity in life, and that she grows up to be passionate, just like me.

Not every day is sunshine and rainbows. A lot of days are very difficult. But I’m convinced they can get better. I’m convinced that there has to be more to life than feeling miserable. There comes a point in life where you are fed up with how you feel day to day. No one can make you come to that realization, only you can experience that for yourself. But there are so many great things about people, especially those who suffer from a mental illness. I’d love to hear about of your great qualities in the comments from those who need a listening ear, or just want to share their story of finding themselves though the dark forests of a mental illness.

Please note, I’ll be starting a series of blog posts regarding coming to terms with mental illness and childhood pasts and will be posting as frequently as I can. Let me know if you have any questions you’d like addressed in the next blog post!

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~ by mmasters89 on September 5, 2015.

2 Responses to “Why My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me”

  1. Wow it seems so tough, I really empathise with you and hope your life is full of more good days than bad. Have you tried meditation and yoga? Also, I really suggest listening to happy/ inspiring music when you wake up and have breakfast, it really helps you give you a good start to the day 🙂

  2. Wow. I just ran across this and good for you. I hope to see more posts in the future on your journey. This battle is tough for us all.

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