Dear Future Husband, From Your Lover With a Mental Illness

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Dear Future Husband,

I will put this as bluntly as possible: as much as you love me, as blissful as you imagine our fast-approaching future together, nothing in the world, no pre-matrimonial preparation we endeavor together, will equip you with all the necessary tools to handle me. I’m not talking about my shampoos and conditioners and sprays and gels taking up more than their fair share of space on the bathroom counter, or the burnt popcorn that will inevitably be a part of our date nights in; you will learn things in this letter that will either turn you off for good, or make me want to kiss you for your optimistic yet utterly realistic attitude, your acceptance of everything that may go wrong and how firmly you hold the belief that love means forever, in sickness and in health, until one or both of us shall meet our end.

Love, I have bipolar disorder. And you may not know what that means now, but you will soon understand. You will find that the charming, bubbly disposition I get when I’m getting a touch less sleep than necessary can turn into a candy-colored, all-too-sunny nightmare if we let it get out of hand. You will see me sometimes in so much pain it hurts to breathe, and even if I lash out on you, I want you to know it is never your fault. You will learn when to hold me and when to let go and that you can’t always fix me up. Please save yourself some heartache and don’t try.

When I ask you to check the closet for ghosts like the child I no longer have a right to be, humor me. Tell me this isn’t real, that the voices in my head can’t leave the confines of my skull. Say whatever it takes to convince me the dark is nothing more than the absence of light, that it is not a breeding ground for monsters and ghouls. When we turn in for the night the following evening, remind me I survived last night.

Be prepared to rat me out to my doctor. I’ve never had a problem with honesty, but as we age, things change. I give you permission now to say if I’m not taking my meds or if I’m not coming clean about my psychoses and my moods. Even if it pains you to do it, my health comes before my feelings. So go ahead, tell him I’m lying, because I know, in my sane state now, it’s for my own good.

Like any soon-to-be-married man, you might want children. And I don’t know what to tell you about that. Bipolar disorder is genetic, and I would not wish this upon anyone if I could help it. But we will weigh out pros and cons together. By the time we have to cross this bridge, I might be fine. This can be manageable. And one day it may very well be so manageable, and I’ll be able to have as many kids as we can fit into our beat up minivan. I warn you, I may be a moodier pregnant chick than others — I may be so annoying you will want to move back in with your mother until the nine months are up. But such is a worthy price to pay for that family you may have been dreaming of since we got serious about this whole marriage thing. And if having a house full of tykes isn’t you’re thing, that’s OK, too. At the moment, I’d prefer a pack of furbabies to call our own.

When you see all of these things, don’t think me mad. Think of me as human, broken, but not without good days and a heart of gold. Before we merge into one unit, I will do my best to prepare myself for the day when we are permanently together, to make it so you don’t have to worry whether you will come home to me preparing to take my own life. I don’t know if that will ever be a possibility, but I promise you, I will try. If I slip up, it’s OK to get angry and frustrated. But please know it’s not my fault. I will do my part to keep myself as healthy as I can, but these things happen, and you must know that is my truth.

I don’t want you to be my caretaker and don’t expect you to be. The only thing I really want from you is love and devotion and the compassion to not treat me like a little kid or the picture of madness. Treat me like your wife, nothing less. And if you can’t stay, I understand. But I hope you’ll at least give it a shot.

After reading this, if you still love me, go ahead, spouse me — put a ring on it! I can’t promise you more good times than bad, but I can promise you a spouse who loves you more than you’ll ever know.

Love,

Your Future Wife

Follow this journey on The Deep End Diaries.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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How Being in Foster Care Affected My Mental Health

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The first time I remember meeting my parents was in a McDonald’s when I was 6 years old.

I’m sure for most of you some red flags go up when you hear that. But for me, my family and to anyone who has been adopted, that’s our normal.

I consider myself lucky; I was only in foster care for about a year and a half. I stayed in two foster homes, which both treated me well. I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize how different my situation was at the time. I knew I was different than most kids; I just didn’t comprehend how unusual my story, even at a young age, was.

In April of 2000, I left my foster home to live with my future adoptive family. I had an advantage because my future Aunt Donna had adopted a sibling group of four children prior to my parent’s decision to adopt (which also inspired my parents eventual adopting little old me). Becoming part of the Coleman family was an easy enough transition. I honestly didn’t realize I was different until second grade. The Colemans and I lived in a farm town where my graduating class of 60 was considered large. Don’t get me wrong; I loved growing up in a small town. Still, everybody knew everybody, and being the new adopted kid wasn’t as easy as I think I was expecting. I was a rarity, which wasn’t always a good thing. Kids can be cruel. A lot of comments were probably meant to be harmless, but damn, did they hurt. One question was asked more than others though. “Didn’t your real mom love you?” I remember I had one bully who would love to talk about my biological family, telling me she understood why my biological mother would give me away. Mind you, that’s not the truth. DCF (the Department of Children and Families) intervened, I wasn’t given away.

I didn’t have a negative experience while in foster care. Still, until the age of 7 I experienced a lot of pain, loss and change. I never really thought about the psychological effects, but of course what child does. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder; I would have panic
attacks sometimes in school, in some cases I’d even hide under my desk. This happened a lot when fliers were passed out in school monthly about becoming a foster family. I usually destroyed them and didn’t bring them home.

I think when a child is in foster care one of two things happen; you either stay recluse, and don’t trust anyone, or you attach way too quickly and cling on for dear life. I was the latter. This developed into an attachment disorder. For the majority of my life I would meet
people, and cling on. This frightened most people — because most people don’t go from meeting to being best friends. I would call too much, and I looked like a stalker; of course now I’m humiliated by my actions. But then, I needed that verification that people weren’t going to leave. I was so afraid of my life changing, and being alone.

I related to adults more than I did my peers, and I befriended my teachers. I think it’s because adults could comprehend my story, and talk to me about it. A lot of my peers dismissed my story as fiction. Who could blame them though? My normal was intense; adopted twice, death riddled throughout my story’s chapters, abuse and neglect were mixed into my early years, and then, suddenly, I found a little bit of  happiness. It was a lot to take in. And it didn’t really help I was a little over the top. At the time, teachers dismissed it as ADHD. I was a disruption. I would get up in the middle of class to sharpen my pencil, but would stop at everyone’s desk to ask if they needed their pencils sharpened, too. I thought I was being considerate; my red faced teachers would disagree. But it was more than ADHD; if anything ADHD was a precursor to my future diagnosis. I would rapid cycle. One moment I would be extremely happy; like over the top, just got asked to prom kind of happy. And all it would take is one person saying one thing in the hallway (it didn’t even have to be me) and it would affect me through all of class. I was the girl who cried every single day in school; and that’s not an exaggeration. I would literally cry once a day. And not just a tear; it was a full blown breakdown. But by the next class, I was OK.

People would say I was dramatic, and I hated it; I was in drama, but I wasn’t dramatic. I had a lot on my plate, and how could any child, or teenager know how to handle that.

At 17, after my first recognized suicide attempt, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Everything made more sense with this diagnosis.

But it wasn’t until I embraced my shadow, I was finally able to move forward; out of mania, away from depression, and into stability. I moved away from toxic people; literally, by
moving out of state. Slowly, things started to click for me. I finally realized my mental illness isn’t a handicap. And I finally realized my hyperactivity, and my ability to speak, wasn’t a curse; it was a blessing.

I finally have accepted my diagnosis. I know where I am. And believe me, it wasn’t easy. Managing and recognizing a mental illness is the hardest thing I’ve had to do; and I was in labor for two days. I’m not perfect at it. But I try to practice self-soothing techniques, I go to therapy, and I take my meds now. And I try to talk to people about what it’s like to live with a mental illness; because it’s crippling sometimes. I try to give a voice to those who can’t speak out, and I’m trying to break the stigma that comes with mental illness. I am letting people know we are fighting the same war; and although we lose battles, we will win the war. I am a wife, a mom and a friend. I am a daughter. I am a survivor. I live with bipolar. I spend my days raising my son, and making a change in the mental health world.

And that is my normal now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. We have no say in the cards we are dealt as children. And yes, it’s awful, and none of us deserved the broken childhood we may have had. But it is up to us to take care of ourselves now, and to change the outcome for the future. Being a foster kid may define us, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad definition. We are adolescent survivors. We have been through hell, and back (some of us not even realizing how bad it was). And we are still here. We can work on ourselves, and fix ourselves. We have learned to be self-sufficient. But we need to help the kids who are without a family now. We need to educate people, and provide these kids with love and support. We will all heal; it just takes support from the rest of our handpicked tribe.

Watch Taylor tell her story at an event for Foster Care Awareness Month below:

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Blur of Bipolar Disorder

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I’ve always been the type of person who has trouble staying still. Constantly moving from one thing to the next, or at least wanting to. It’s hard for me to make a decision because I can’t choose just one thing or focus on one thing. And the worse things get, the faster I want to move. The less I want to slow down or stop or be quiet. I move as quickly as possible to the next job, the next bottle of wine, the next person, party, hobby. I can’t even focus on a 20-minute television show for more than five minutes. I can’t do what I love — reading or writing or digesting a film or a record because that would involve me being still and I can’t be still because that means addressing what is happening. Admitting there is a problem. Realizing I’m once again broken. So I speed. I zig and I zag and I am too much. I drink too much. I cry too much. I buy too much. I go as fast as I can for as long as I can until I can’t do it anymore. Until I physically can’t take another step. Until I can’t feel too much anymore.

Until I’m done.

Until I am broken and all I can manage now is to turn off all the lights and sleep and try and remember how I got to this point.

Because by this point all I can remember are blurs.

A blur of me sitting in my car in the rain and crying on the phone while my boyfriend tries to understand why I’m crying.

A blur of me huddled under the covers while my dog remains loyally cemented to the foot of my bed keeping watch.

A blur of me dashing out the door with nowhere to really go because I want to avoid talking about anything that matters with my roommate.

A blur of seeing my mom’s name show up on the phone screen and turning it over so I can pretend I never saw the call.

I remember something about laughing but it’s faint and I can’t remember what was so funny. Something about music but none of the songs make me feel anything. Something about reading but nothing on the pages grabs my attention. Something about nature but
I don’t want to leave my bed. I drive over a bridge and for a moment imagine what it would be like to go over the side. Would it hurt? Would I feel something, anything?

And then I’m in a long abandoned antique mall’s parking lot screaming and choking because I wished it would actually happen. That it would all be over. That I would maybe feel something when I hit the water. But I also don’t want to feel anything or think about anything ever again.

I want everyone to leave me alone but I sob when I think my wish might actually come true. I dream about being surrounded by people and all of them hate me. I dream about everyone I love leaving me and screwing me over. I wake up screaming and scared and shaking. Most of all I wake up angry. I carry this anger around. I wrap myself in it. My journal becomes a scribble of messy, heavy bits of prose and lyrics. I’m angry with myself for letting this happen again and I want everyone to be angry with me, too. I want to feel
something, anything. I stand outside in just a t-shirt. I can see my breath but I’m not cold. I still don’t feel anything. And then all of a sudden I realize I’m sitting on my bed while my roommate sits on one of the numerous mounds of clothes that covers my floor.

“This is the lowest I’ve seen you.”

I get lunch with my mom.

“You just don’t seem like your usual sweet self.”

I’m listening again.

Everything is coming back into focus.

I talk on the phone with my boyfriend and don’t spend the entire time in tears.

“I love you.”

And I believe him.

I return texts and phone calls. I sing in the car. I read. I sit on a bench for an hour enjoying how the sun feels hot on my face. I walk outside and shiver because of the cold.

I get up at 7 a.m. and eat a bagel. I spend time deliberately, delicately picking out what to wear. I’m being put back together. But I’m still not there.

The pieces are settling back together. I am settling. I feel quiet inside and I don’t mind.

I stop trying to pack my days full of things one right after the other. I am caught off guard by the scars, but I have a hard time recalling exactly how they got there and am grateful that was a blur. I am grateful because the monsters that terrified me in my dreams were just that — fantastical monsters. I am grateful that though they don’t understand why I can’t pick myself up or crawl out of bed they want to and they try. I am grateful because while he doesn’t understand why, he holds me while my mind moves too fast and everything is just too loud. I am grateful because while she doesn’t understand why, she shares a pint of ice cream and her couch with me while I talk until I have nothing left to say and then it’s OK if I don’t say anything at all. I am grateful because they do understand, at least a little.

I am grateful because they know how it’s going to end and still they stand by patiently, so very close, waiting to push me back up again and again.

Follow this journey on Twenties in Ruin

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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10 Things People With Bipolar Disorder Don't Want You to Know

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I can’t count the number of articles I’ve come across with the title “# Things Bipolar People Want/Wish You Knew.” For the most part, they’re pretty spot on. But I want to come at it from a different angle. I’ve done my best to keep it pretty similar in format, but if you feel I got something wrong or missed a key point, drop me a comment!

1. We’re scared of our symptoms too.

There’s nothing quite like the dive between (hypo)mania and depression when you feel like you can see the world crumbling around you. Or the emptiness that makes you feel like a dead (wo)man walking. Or the darkest parts of depression when it hurts to cry because you’re trying not to wake anyone, so you silently sob… but then you realize you aren’t breathing either and your chest is on fire, but it also feels like you’ve got a ton of bricks on top of you. You wonder if it’s possible to die from sadness. You walk around with the stress of what could happen if you have a manic episode. The way you lock up your credit cards, carry around only a limited amount of cash because you know you can’t stop yourself from spending everything you have. The way you stay home because you know you’re bound to get into a bad situation because you’ve been manic for a few days and now you’re bored.

2. We’ve given up on hope for ourselves more times than you have.

We know sometimes we’re a hot mess. Hearing you say “I’m done” when we have a bad day (or too many in a row), or watching you go for a drive because you “can’t handle” us at the moment just reminds us we’re alone. And as many times as you’ve grown tired of us, we’ve done that twice as much with ourselves. 

If we trust you enough to open up, it’s because we know we’re eventually going to fail ourselves and we need you to pick up the pieces. It’s not fair of us to smother you in our problems, but if we could figure out how to not make them problems or how to deal with them on our own, we wouldn’t need so much help. In the end, when the words “I suck” are said, it’s our inner demons speaking, and we need you to tell us why we shouldn’t believe them again.

3. We genuinely don’t need a reason to be upset (in any mood), and it makes us trust you less when you yell at us that we do need a reason.

If we knew why we felt the way we did, we could try to fix it. We have a mood disorder, not an analysis-of-the-situation disorder. If we’re showing you we have a problem, don’t force us to talk about it before we’re ready. It just makes it worse, and we’ll lie about why we’re upset because we just want you to be happy there is a reason — even if there isn’t.

4. We feel like actors. A Lot. And we don’t want to “remove our mask.”

Feeling (hypo)manic? Better find a reason for putting in all the extra work, being extra chatty, being extra social. Feeling depressed? Better find a reason for feeling sad. Or, better find a way to hide it behind the words “tired,” “sick” and “allergies.” No one think to question the high-functioning worker or student. We blame it on too much caffeine, the hyper form of exhaustion, being excited for a goal or even wanting to get something done so you can do something else (the key “give aways” here are goal orientation and chaos). Everyone avoids the depressed, especially if it’s the grey-faced, bags-under-the-eyes, slow-as-molasses individuals who seem to act like that for days. Everyone asks about the first day: “What’s wrong?” “Need anything?” and so on. But even the answers to those are lies. “Just tired,” “stressed,” “coming down with something.” It’s easier to just go on with the lies than it is to explain everything to every person. Because inevitably we’ll get the “avoidance” treatment.

5. Looking at other, more successful people with bipolar disorder makes us feel like a disaster.

It is both a blessing and a curse to see the people who have come before (or are presently) and were (are) successful and bipolar. Van Gogh. Lovato. Van Damme. Cobain. Churchill. Nightingale. Sinatra.Woolf. Artists, singers, actors, leaders and more have graced history with their talents and their diagnoses.

Not everyone with bipolar disorder is going to become famous, and we know that. But it hurts quite a lot that some of the people who were most successful at their craft had it and we share a condition but not capabilities. It’s easy for us to start a painting or sculpture, musical instrument, novel, poem, whatever and then destroy it because we listen to the voice that says, “You’ll never get noticed.” While we’re happy for the successful people with bipolar disorder, we want to be like them too, and that may not happen.

6. We’re absolutely normal.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re completely “normal.” We eat, drink, breathe and exist the same as anyone else. But we do so in a broader spectrum. We experience great sorrow at the loss of a friend, freedom or innocence. We experience great anger at perceived injustices, at inequality. We experience pure joy at the birth of our best friend’s first child, at the sight of a rainbow or a thunderstorm, at the realization that we succeeded at a task we’d never tried before. Where other people may feel confused, we feel it more. Where others may feel concern, we feel the weight of the world. It’s not about the Hollywood stereotype of the best-friend-turned-serial-killer. We have jobs we fight desperately to keep, we have friends and families and we go to school. Just the same as any body else. We just live it more.

7. We become specialists in our diagnoses, and we don’t appreciate being compared to your “crazy aunt” or your “moody neighbor.”

It’s nice when people have had genuine contact or a relationship with someone who actually had bipolar disorder. It’s nice to know if you have an episode, you can talk to them and they can help you through it. It isn’t at all nice when people pretend they understand. We aren’t like your “crazy aunt” who threw your uncle’s things out of the house because he broke her favorite plate. And we aren’t like your “moody neighbor” who doesn’t smile when you say good morning and cackles over his cup of black coffee at a kid who falls off their bike. We just experience life in a deeper spectrum (see number 6).

And while we’re on the topic, stop calling the weather “bipolar.” That’s offensive to the people who actually have bipolar. We get it, you have problems with the weather. Bipolar disorder has the capacity to destroy our lives. Pack a sweater and an umbrella. You’ll be fine.

8. We could write a dissertation on suicide and the types of suicidal tendencies.

Everyone, just about, is familiar with the concept of suicide, and there may even be people who have experience with it on a more personal basis. A person with bipolar is likely to have thought about, if not tried, suicide. But there’s more to it than being depressed and then dying. There’s plenty more motives than people want to discuss. And then there are the latent forms of suicidal tendencies. Because most people are familiar with the “I don’t want to live anymore” version. Not as many people think about the “I want to sleep and not wake up” kind or the “I wish I could just cease to be” kinds. We could write novels about this subject in particular.

9. We go between being really proud of who we are and feeling like a giant mistake.

We know it’s a hassle. But some days we wake up feeling like we run the world. And those days are so few and far between that we run with them in the farthest possible manner. Because soon enough, we know there will come a day when we just can’t seem to do anything right. It isn’t that the days when we feel epic are the truth and the other days are lies. It’s more fluid, more layered than that. We are experts at living in all the times (past, present and future). So when we say “We rock,” we feel we have reached a milestone of success which can be seen at that moment. When we say “we suck” it is because at that moment all we can see are the failures. It doesn’t mean we’re completely failures or completely successes — it’s just what looks more prevalent at that particular moment.

10. We don’t know how to live our lives.

The sentence that seems to pop up the most lately is “adulting is hard.” There are even renditions which say “I’m done adulting. If you want me, I’ll be in my pillow fort with my coloring book.” At some point, we have to realize we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. We can find things that help us manage our symptoms safely and in a positive way. We can avoid triggers. We can accept only what we can reasonably handle. But in the end, we don’t know what we’re doing. There is no manual for living with bipolar disorder. And even if there was, not everyone is the same, so it might not work for us. Funnily enough though, not too many people (with and without the diagnosis) know how to live their lives. People with bipolar disorder may be the first to admit what everyone is feeling. No one knows what’s going on. And that’s part of the fun.

Follow this journey on To Be an Equal.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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10 Lies My Mania Tells Me

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Manic episodes are like a high I don’t want to come down from at the time. Realistically, I know that how I feel when I’m manic isn’t the right or healthy way to feel. But when mania takes over, any healthy or realistic thought goes out the window. Mania lies to me and tries to make me do things that are foolish and sometimes dangerous. I’ve learned what these lies are, and have learned to look out for them when I’m manic so I can stop them before they start. There are 10 lies mania tells me to try and get me into trouble.

1. “You don’t need your medication.”

Mania tries to get me to believe my medication isn’t working, or that I have no need to take it because I’m doing fine on my own. This is one of the most dangerous lies, because if my bipolar disorder were to go untreated, I would be unstable and unable to care for myself properly.

2. “Don’t slow down.”

Whether it’s my speech or my actions, I’m always in fast-forward when I’m manic. Mania tells me this is the best way to be and that I will get more done or get more words in if I don’t slow down. Not only can this annoy others, but it can run me down pretty quickly.

3. “Your doctor doesn’t really know anything.”

Another dangerous lie. When I’m manic, I start to believe that my doctor just wants to medicate me into a vegetative state and that he really doesn’t care about my true well-being. In reality, I would be in bad shape without my doctor and the help he has provided me.

4. “You need to drive faster.”

I hear this lie when I’m in the car, sitting in city traffic, or on a country road alone. This is a self-destructive lie, and ties in with the next one.

5. “You can’t get hurt.”

Mania wants me to think I am impervious to injury, like a car accident, and illness, like my bipolar disorder. Because of this lie, I have acted impulsively and not taken proper precautions when I was starting to get sick.

6. “You should be angry.”

I overreact when I’m manic, and mania tells me that’s OK. I say hurtful things and act in malicious ways and that is not me. Mania tries to ruin my relationships and alienate my loved ones, but I’ve learned not to let it.

7. “What you’re seeing is real.”

There has been one instance in my life when I hallucinated while manic. Mania messed with my mind so much that I believed something was there that really wasn’t. Now I know that I if I see something odd while manic, I need to stop and question it.

8. “You can accomplish anything and everything.”

Mania tells me it is possible to complete my five-year plan in just one day. It tells me I can do my monthly cleaning list in just a few hours. This is just another way that mania makes me think unrealistically, and leaves me disappointed when I don’t succeed.

9. “You don’t need sleep.”

When I’m experiencing a manic episode, sleep is the last thing on my mind. I want to go, go, go and do, do, do, and I believe that sleep will interfere and slow me down. I need rest, especially when I’m manic, because if I become sleep-deprived I will make dumb or risky decisions because I can’t think clearly.

10. “Safe sex is boring.”

Impulsivity is what I struggle with most when it comes to mania. This means I will engage in sexual relationships in unsafe ways because I think if I don’t I’m not fun or I am boring. This isn’t true in the slightest, because unsafe sex doesn’t make me fun, it makes me foolish. There are so many negative consequences to unsafe sex I don’t see when I’m manic, including how I will feel the next day.

Mania is not my friend. She is the mean girl at school who pretends to be my friend and then goes into the bathroom and talks behind my back. Mania is a liar, and doesn’t care about me or my well-being. It’s taken me a few manic episodes to pick up on these lies and put them to bed, but I’ve done it. It’s so important not to listen to the lies if I want to stay on track with my mental health, and if I want to have good relationships and realistic thoughts. My mental health is what is most important, not the risky, foolish, and dangerous fun that mania wants me to have.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When I Asked Myself, 'Was I a Bad Kid? Or Was That My Bipolar Disorder?'

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I have a confession to make. I was not an easy child to raise. Sure, every kid has their moments… But I seemed to always be having a moment. I was the kid that got off the school bus sobbing because one of the kids at school was bullying me and then bam! Just hours later, I had punched my sister — again.

My parents were not the kind that called that “girls being girls” or simply “sibling rivalry.” They made sure I didn’t get away with it. Despite how much I hated getting in trouble, I am thankful my parents set clear rules and consequences. But why then — if I knew I would be punished — was I always getting into trouble?

I remember one summer when I was younger, grade four or five maybe… I had been invited to go to a birthday party. I spent the whole month counting down the days and I was so excited to go. That morning I woke up and I was miserable. Not cranky or moody… Just outright unreasonably miserable. I was rude. I picked fights. My mom warned me not once, not twice but three times that if I didn’t stop, I was not going to that birthday party. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her. I did. The fear of not being able to see my friends and missing out was there. But for some reason, as though I couldn’t even control it, I gave my mother one more reason to follow through on that threat. It was not an empty one. I missed out on that birthday party, and it wasn’t the only time this sort of thing happened.

Looking back on these times, I remember thinking to myself, “You gotta stop. You’re gonna get in trouble. You know the rules!” But it was like I had no control over it. But what mother is going to believe their child when they say “Mom, I didn’t mean to!” Why would anyone automatically assume that the kid actually had no control over their actions? And as a child and eventually a teenager, that feeling of lack of control only grew — yet there was no way to really articulate it to anyone else.

Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20 years old, a lot of things from my past suddenly make sense. I can clearly see the times where I was hypomanic and the times when I was severely depressed. It got me thinking back to my childhood and how my bipolar disorder was probably always there. If only we had known.

I don’t blame my parents — in fact, I am thankful for them. Without even knowing it, they protected me from my bipolar disorder. They helped me manage it without even knowing it was there. It wasn’t until I became an adult and was left to my own devices that I was finally diagnosed.

I read an article recently that discusses the signs of mental illness in children and I encourage parents to read it, too. But more importantly, I want to thank you for being there for your children. Do not be discouraged. When they become adults, they will come back to you and thank you for being there and loving them. It just takes time — just ask my mom!

The Mighty is asking the following: Were you diagnosed with your disease, disability and/or mental illness as an adult? Tell us about the moment you finally got your diagnosis. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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