The Mighty features three people with chronic illnesses on magazine covers

How Bipolar Disorder Shapes Tiana Duddleston's Summer

Tiana Duddleston cover

How Tiana Duddleston feels about her body often depends on the state of her bipolar disorder. “If I’m manic, I feel a lot better about myself and I usually lose more weight because I don’t eat and I’m very active, so during those times I’ll wear more flattering things,” Duddleston explained. “If I’m depressed, or just in between, I will cover myself up more and constantly try to hide my stomach.”

While Duddleston can appreciate summertime, the warm weather in Sound Beach, New York, often makes the 34-year-old feel obligated to be enjoying herself. “The nice weather makes me feel like I’m supposed to be outside and I’m supposed to be happy, and if I’m not I’m wasting the day,” she said.

Duddleston, who is 6 feet tall, finds it hard not to compare herself to the models and celebrities she sees in magazines – many of whom share her height, but not her body type. “I see models and actresses having babies and looking perfect weeks after,” the mother of four said. “This year I had a baby and went bathing suit shopping and ended up with what I sort of consider a ‘mom suit.’”

“I’ve been trying hard to be happy with who I am, before what I look like,” Duddleston, who also has borderline personality disorder and anxiety, said. “It’s not easy because of all the meds I take… My medicine makes me tired. My kids make me tired. Life in general just makes me want to sit back and relax after a long day.”

Duddleston is working hard to improve her inner-dialogue. “Despite the negative things I say about myself, I think every woman and man should be happy being who they are no matter their body type,” she said.

Read More: This Is What It Looks Like When You Feature Disabled and Chronically Ill People in Magazines

Next: Justina Bonilla: When Health Conditions Affect How You Dress in the Summer


The Mighty features three people with chronic illnesses on magazine covers

Ros Limbo Fights Her Body Insecurities in the Summer

Ros Limbo's cover

Ros Limbo used to date a photographer. Looking at his photographs, the 25-year-old remembers staring at the same body type over and over again. “They all had super long legs, rock hard abs, toned arms and the perfect bum,” Limbo said. “Whenever I looked at them, I realized they had the perfect ‘beach bodies.’”

Limbo, who lives with bipolar disorder II, constantly feels pressure to be perfect. It’s feeling she’s had since grade school, when she first started experimenting with diet pills. By the time Limbo graduated high school her eating habits resembled those of an eating disorder. “I still struggle with food,” Limbo said.

While Limbo strives to be healthier, summer threatens any progress she’s made. “I am prone to get depressed in summer because of how insecure I feel,” she said. “It is hard for me to feel very comfortable in my body, but I suppose that is part of the healing process. I can now look at myself in the mirror, something I could never do in the past.”

Often, Limbo tries to dress in a way that makes her comfortable – wearing a bikini with a wrap or tights underneath her dresses. But in Windhoek, Namibia, where Limbo is from, the summer heat makes dressing how she wants to dress difficult. “I hate it because I don’t feel comfortable,” Limbo said. “Summer makes me very self-conscious. At that moment my anxiety increases and I start feeling the need to eat less and exercise”

Limbo credits the medication she takes for her bipolar disorder for the strides she’s made decreasing the frequency of her depressive states. “I’m slowly building up my self-worth,” Limbo said. “It’s a process where some days are better than others. However, if anything, bipolar has made me resilient. I know that one day I will love myself fully and without reservation.”

Read More: This Is What It Looks Like When You Feature Disabled and Chronically Ill People in Magazines

Next: Matthew Medrano Talks About Body Image and Cerebral Palsy

Suzy Favor-Hamilton running a race

I'm an Olympian, Former Escort and Now – a Mental Health Advocate

My name is Suzy Favor Hamilton. I was once one of the top middle distance runners in the world and a three-time Olympian. After my running career, I was a successful businesswoman, wife and mother living in Wisconsin. To many, my life appeared perfect. An image I had tried to live up to my entire life, the squeaky clean all-American girl who won races and played the role of “good girl” to a tee.

But in late 2012, at the age of 44, I was outed by an investigative tabloid as a high-end Las Vegas escort. I had been secretly escorting for the past year, and at the time, I would have told you I loved every minute of it. I was devastated when I was outed not so much because of the public scrutiny and ridicule that were coming my way — not because I had tarnished my family name. I was devastated mostly because exposure would likely put an end to the secret life that had brought me everything I wanted and needed at the time. Thrill, taboo, admiration, money and most of all, sex.

Weeks later, reluctantly seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in order to keep loved ones from completely abandoning me, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and told the antidepressant I was prescribed and had been taking the past year and a half had likely triggered a mostly constant manic state, and in my case, an intensely sexual state, irrational in thought and oblivious to any ramifications of what I was doing. Antidepressants can be a big “no-no” for those with bipolar, I learned.

So here we are, three in a half years later, and I can say at times, recovery was a living hell, especially in that first year, but I’m doing quite well these days. My life is usually quite normal, I guess you could say, though I’ve found that various forms of intense exercise are useful to take the place of previous coping mechanisms that tended to get me in trouble. I crave independence these days, creating art, a little thrill here and there, and an extremely active outdoors lifestyle helps. Yoga has been a godsend and I’m now a certified yoga teacher. I have my moments where my triggers get the best of me and I’m best left alone until I come out of a depressive episode. I’m manic occasionally, but nothing like before. The mood stabilizer I’m on has worked well for me. Generally, life is pretty good.

I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband who amazingly stuck with me through all of this, though at times, he had one foot out the door. With education, he began to focus on the illness and not so much on the behavior. There was therapy and major bumps along the way, but we’ve made it. My daughter is as amazing as it gets and she totally gets my illness. She’s mostly patient with me when I’m not quite there. She’s the light that keeps me going when I’m struggling. Most of my family and friends have stuck by me. Support is so, so key in recovery. I know how fortunate I am for so many reasons.

I decided to tell my story initially for selfish reasons. I simply wanted to be understood, on my terms and in my words. So I wrote a memoir, and it turned out to be a New York Times Best Seller. Who knew? To be understood is what we living with mental illness want so desperately. But I realized as the writing progressed this book might help others living with mental illness. We tend to take comfort in knowing we are not alone, and storytelling has a way of doing that. How many notes do I receive every week from people who say they relate to my story, whether it’s my mania, my intimate relationship with anxiety and darkness, my history of eating disorder, my obsession for perfection and to please others? I can tell you the notes I receive (this happens a lot when people know you’ve been through some serious shit) remind me I’m not alone. I believe telling my story has done the same for others, and for that, the painful reliving of much of my journey was well worth it (the book was very challenging to write and at times, I just wanted to chuck it).

So now I travel the country, speaking my truth and advocating for the cause. I try to show others what mental illness looks like. I try to bring out in the open the rarely discussed sexual component of bipolar disorder. Even a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists have trouble going there. I try to show that one can hit rock bottom, as I did in the aftermath of being outed, and still come out of it OK, that there is hope.

It’s been an evolution, but I’ve come to feel strongly that we should never feel shame about our mental illnesses, nor should we feel shame for the behaviors that may have resulted, at least in part due to the illness. I found that the shame — and believe me, I felt plenty of it initially — holds us back from moving forward in recovery. What we need is compassion and understanding. Simple as that. That’s the message I try to spread each and every day, at least when my brain cooperates. Thanks for listening.

Glasses on a wooden table

What I Do to Feel Good on the ‘Bad Days’ With Bipolar Disorder

Some days, I wake up and can tell it’s going to be a bad day. Those are the mornings when I can feel it down deep in my bones that this day will not be good, unless I make it happen. Those are the days I know I have to mentally prepare myself to be happy. Doing so is difficult at times. I’d be lying if I dared to say all I have to do is decide, “Today will be a good day,” or “I choose to be happy.”

While I do believe positivity is crucial for having a happy life and being mentally stable, there’s far more to it for those of us with mental illness. It takes more for us to strive, rather than simply to decide it so.

The first crucial step is to figure out what tactics you have that make you feel better. For some, it’s sleeping. For others, it is shopping, and for others, it might be exercising. Personally for me, I have had 10 years to learn the triggers and methods of how to prevent them or nip them quick.

So here’s what I do to feel good on the bad days of my bipolar disorder:

1. I start my morning with exercise. This is very difficult and takes dedication to keep it up, but oh boy, does it work.

2. After my workout, I shower and actually fix my hair and makeup. It feels good to dress up sometimes.

3. I go to work telling myself, “Today can be a good day.”

4. I search for a positive quote that speaks to me. I write it down, with a goal in mind to reread it often.

5. I keep to myself. Believe it or not, I’ve learned I can be my own worst enemy. Keeping to myself helps me to monitor my interactions with others so I don’t annoy or piss someone off.

6. I read my favorite books during breaks or read funny memes. This gets my mind off things that might be bothering me.

7. Lastly, I step back and take a breather if I need to.

But guess what? On other days when I can sense it, I sleep in. I pull my hair back in a ponytail. I opt for zero ounces of makeup. I eat whatever the heck I want! It’s called balance. Anyone with this illness knows there has to be a lot of balance to remain stable and balanced ourselves.

I’ve learned a lot, but I’m also always learning new ways to turn a bad day around. I hope this will help someone else to feel motivated, even on those days when it feels like there is no reason at all to make it a good day.

a woman in a strapless dress surrounded by flashing cameras

My Concerns About Bipolar Disorder Becoming 'Cool'

I recently saw a quote on Facebook that said something like, “I had bipolar before it was cool.” That really made me think. Is it cool now to have bipolar disorder? Is it fashionable or glamorous in some way?

Recently, there appears to have been an increased awareness of bipolar disorder, at least as a diagnoses and as a mental health condition. An increase in the number of celebrities revealing their illness, along with the dramatization of bipolar disorder on television and the increased use (or misuse) of the word “bipolar,” has undoubtedly brought the illness into the public eye. I’m not necessarily suggesting this does or does not equal increased knowledge, understanding and support of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.  However, I do have some concerns.

1. When people make incorrect statements about bipolar disorder.

Statements such as “Oh, I’m so bipolar,” or “The weather is bipolar today.” I hear these things often and I hate it. Not only are statements like these inaccurate, they also have a way of devaluing or even dismissing what it is really like to have bipolar disorder.

2. When bipolar disorder becomes glamorized because of celebrities with the illness.

It’s great that celebrities like Britney Spears, Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta Jones have revealed their experiences with bipolar disorder. Hopefully, this helps to destigmatize the illness and raise awareness. My concern here is anything celebrities do or say is at risk of becoming glamorized and popular. Mental illness is not glamorous in any way and it’s not a good thing to have this in common with any celebrity.

Also, while this shows bipolar disorder can affect anyone, there is a danger in that everyone’s experiences are different. Being compared to famous people may not be helpful or realistic for most people. For example, ordinary people may not be able to afford treatment that stars have access to.

Also, while it may be becoming acceptable for an actor or singer to have bipolar, this does not necessarily mean that ordinary people and their illnesses are accepted. Many people feel the need to hide their bipolar disorder from family, friends, employers and the rest of society for fear of prejudice and discrimination (which is justified). Basically, what I’m saying is bipolar disorder affects different people in different ways. Don’t compare us all to celebrities we have nothing else in common with.

3. When television misrepresents bipolar disorder.

It’s a good thing that bipolar disorder is being addressed in soaps and other television series. Examples of bipolar characters include Carrie in “Homeland” and Stacey in “Eastenders.” When handled well, this can help raise awareness and get people talking about bipolar disorder. Again though, there is a risk of this glamorizing the illness and in some cases trivializing bipolar disorder and its impact. It could also go the other way, scaring both people who have bipolar and those who know someone with the illness. Most mentally ill people are no danger to others, though this may make for a more dramatic story line. Also, remember, not everyone with bipolar disorder is the young, attractive woman on television.

While it’s awesome that some people feel able to reveal their own struggles with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, it’s also important to remember everyone with bipolar is completely different, even if some of the symptoms are the same. It’s also vital to look past what may appear to be glamorous, fun or misrepresentative to the reality of living with bipolar disorder or any other serious illness.

Bipolar disorder can ruin lives (or at least makes them more challenging). Everyone functions differently and the illness can impact people differently. One thing is for sure though: There is nothing cool about having bipolar disorder.

Woman looking into crystal ball with question mark in it

The Question I Dread Answering About My Bipolar Disorder

When getting to know someone, you ask a series of questions:

What do you do?

Where are you from?

What are your hobbies?

As a person with bipolar disorder, I get asked the same questions. But when someone gets to know me well enough, they ask me a different set of questions:


Why do you feel that way?

Why did you do that?

Why did you say that to me?

The answer is complicated, which is the reason that “Why?” is my least favorite question. It’s difficult to explain my bipolar disorder to someone who isn’t also diagnosed, but usually, I find a way. The part of my illness that is the most difficult to explain is how I have very little control of myself, my emotions and my actions during a bipolar episode.

People assume since I’m on medication, I must be able to fully control my bipolar disorder, but that’s not true. My medication helps me manage my illness, not control it — at least that’s how I feel. Despite regularly taking my medication, I feel out of control more often than not.

People, even those closest to me, can’t comprehend what it means to have no control over your life. They don’t know how it feels to be controlled by this alien that is bipolar disorder. They don’t understand when they ask me why, I can’t say anything but, “I don’t know.”

I really don’t know. I know my illness controls my thoughts, feelings and actions, but I don’t know why I can’t gain control. Maybe it has something to do with my strength. Maybe I’m not strong enough to take back control of my life. Again, I don’t know. All I know is most of the time, I feel completely powerless, like I have no choice about how I want to feel.

It’s hard to explain how out of control I feel. It seems like no matter how I try to word my explanation, nobody understands anyway. I feel like I don’t even understand it myself, like I’m the one who needs the explanation. If I don’t understand this part of my illness, how can anyone else understand? I realize I need to find the answer, consult my doctor or therapist and finally take back power over my life.

I have no explanation, but I have come to the realization is is possible to regain control over my bipolar disorder. I’ve realized I am the one who needs the explanation, and that’s why this is the part of my bipolar disorder that is the most difficult to explain.

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