World Bipolar Day (A Late Post)

In honor of World Bipolar Day (woo-hoo!) I thought I’d fill out this questionnaire. And yes, I am two days late!

1. What does bipolar disorder mean to you?
Bipolar Disorder means living in a completely different way than everyone else I know…it means never ending therapy and medication. It means that the little things destroy me. It means struggling to find ways to cope. It means I am complex and I can’t expect anyone else to understand.

2. What was your life like before you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
Before I went “downhill”, my life was fairly “normal”. I had always been an emotional, sensitive, quiet child and I would never have described myself as “happy”…BP has always been there, really. It just took time for it to truly emerge.

3. How old were you when you were diagnosed?
12 (which is young, and I used to doubt my diagnosis often, but no longer do).

4. How do you manage your symptoms?
Good question. I should go to therapy more regularly. I still haven’t really found coping mechanisms for my day-to-day life. It’s sort of come naturally as I’ve aged and become more mature. Medication is a must, though I have yet to find the right one.

5. What is life like for you now?
Life right now is difficult. I’m very quickly approaching my date to graduate from community college after what feels like three very short years, and in that time I’ve grown a lot. I’m struggling to find a job, which puts a huge damper on things, as more financial difficulties keep popping up. I’m trying a new medication. I’m working on college applications and trying to deal with the huge changes coming up, such as leaving home for the first time. I’m terrified. It’s a scary time.

6. Has having bipolar disorder affected your friendships, personal life, or professional life?
I’m incredibly grateful to have very loyal, loving, empathetic friends, and I hope to keep them for life. They can’t understand but they can listen, and they do so willingly. I am truly grateful for them. As for my not-so-close friends, I’m not against sharing my diagnosis, but I know I will be stereotyped, and since I am bipolar type 2 and not type 1, there are huge differences that most people are completely unaware of. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, but I have had people tell me that they can’t deal with my emotional and, well, dark nature, but who needs ’em? In the workplace, I continue to find it frustrating that I can’t exactly disclose my diagnoses to employers. Anxiety and BP make it extremely difficult to work more often than not, but I don’t feel as though it’s something I can share.

7. How do you think society treats people with a mental illness, especially bipolar disorder?
I think there is a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, and bipolar disorder especially. It comes from a lack of understanding. Most people have experienced some sort of depression and anxiety, but bipolar disorder is different. There’s this uniforming picture people have painted in their minds of bipolar disorder – someone incapacitated for months, then the same person going skydiving suddenly. Bipolar is incredibly unique to each individual and I wish it were discussed more.

8. Have you ever felt discriminated against or looked poorly on because of bipolar disorder?
Thankfully no, but I think much of that comes from my privacy.

9. Do you have any words of advice for people in the world suffering with bipolar disorder, or other mental illness?
It may seem hopeless. It may seem hopeless more often than not. But it’s manageable. I know it’s a struggle. It’s beyond a struggle. But think of who you would be without it. Think of all the gifts it DOES give you. You are beautiful no matter what, and you are strong. You can do this. You. Can. Do. This.