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The Words That Changed My Outlook on Living With Bipolar Disorder


My name is Emily. I’m 19 years old and I have bipolar disorder. Last year, I ran away from home, driving nearly 254 miles away from my family and friends. I was ready to drop out of high school, live off of the clothes on my back and somehow survive with no income and my car.

I felt like I didn’t have a place in this world, but that wasn’t the only thing that drove me away. Living with bipolar disorder is no joke, and neither is any mental illness. The best way to describe my brain is comparing it to static on a television. The constant white noise with black and white pixels jumping around on the screen makes it hard to find the balance between manic and calm. My thoughts jump around, making it hard to focus and relax on one task at a time. 

Finally when I decided to come home, I placed myself into a psychiatric hospital where I could find the proper tools to help cope with this disorder. 

A dear friend of mine told me the day before admission into the hospital, “You are not your illness. You have a bipolar disorder, but Emily isn’t bipolar. Emily has bipolar disorder.” Those words rang through me like a bell. Those words still resonate with me and anyone else I know personally with this disorder. I repeat those words to others in the hopes it will be as helpful to them as it was to me. 

After being in the hospital for a week, I still was not finished with my treatment. I lived in an inpatient facility where I had my own apartment and an amazing roommate for three months. My first step was to graduate. I had a tutor in the mornings while my five-hour afternoons were filled with therapy. I was prescribed medication that at first I refused to take. But when I finally started to take them, I noticed the static in my brain was slowly starting to fade. My thoughts were finally calm. Therapy and medicine were the best choices I made. 

Here I am, a year later, finally understanding my place in the world. I have a new outlook on life, and living doesn’t feel miserable anymore. Time helps healing. It’s been a long, grueling process, but I did it.

This message is not for sympathy, but simply to help bring awareness to mental illness. My only goal in life is to be happy for myself and to help the world in the most positive way I can. I know saving the world isn’t possible, but if I can help even one person, I’ve done my job here on Earth. There is help out there, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to reach out for it. Giving up isn’t my choice, and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s either. I hope my story can help you reach out and remember you are not your illness.

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The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about the first time you reached out to someone about your mental illness. Whether it was a friend or a professional, we want to hear about why you opened up, how it went, and why you’re glad (or maybe not glad) you did it. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.