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To the Man Who Loves Me Through the Good and Bad Days With Bipolar Disorder

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Although this is a letter to my husband, I wish all men and women with a spouse struggling with bipolar disorder could read this. I know it is hard. I’ve seen it in my husband’s eyes when the days get worse, when the fights erupt and my illness rages. I can see him wonder if it will ever end.

But, I want to promise you, it does get better. With medication, doctors and support you will get better, maybe not cured, but better. You can live again. You can be stable and happy. It is a process that can take a very long time, but it does get better if you stick with it and if you stick with your partner. The reward of being with the real person you love in the end, to me, is worth all the hard times. Please, don’t give up.

Dear Steven,

We started off young in our love, with giggles and flushed cheeks. I lived to be in your presence. My bipolar diagnosis from a few years back wasn’t under control yet, and I often stayed in a hypomanic high.

Being with you made the bad days seem good, and the good days seem euphoric. But, on the ugly days, I could hide the depression away by telling you I was busy. Back then, I didn’t realize how much I was actually struggling. I don’t think you did either.

It is strange now, as I become healthier, how I can look back on the years before and see how far gone I actually was. I can see how my mania and depression made me at my worst. And yet, you loved me just as I was.

Once we were married, things got rocky, as they always do when you mix two totally different lives (even more so with my illness). Yet, you loved me. Over the next three years, my bipolar disorder became more manageable, and I learned how to cope with a mixture of psychiatric help, cognitive therapy, family support and medications.

You loved me through it. You loved me on the good days, and you loved me relentlessly on the bad ones. You kept me in check when the mania overpowered me, and you lifted me up when the depression threatened to drown me. You helped me get closer to a place of mental healing.

But, with healing, there is never a constant upward slope. Sometimes, you fall back a few steps, and sometimes those steps are huge. I was doing so well, living a balanced life. Everything was in check, sleeping, eating, exercising, laughing, loving and managing the illness. Yet, I cracked. My world caved in.

The nightmares happened and the sleepless nights. You became the culprit, the enemy. I tried so hard to distance myself so I wouldn’t hurt you, but I hurt you anyways. Then, the next diagnosis came.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

My rape and abuse in college had finally come to the surface, as I healed in my bipolar disorder. I couldn’t run from it any more. My mind no longer suppressed it. I grew anxious to be touched and scared to be hugged. I cringed at being kissed, and I fled from the idea of sleeping in the same bed. It wasn’t you, it was him, and all he did to me. And yet, you loved me. You loved me endlessly.

On the days when I couldn’t take it, when I yelled, shouted and sobbed, you held me strong until the pain went away. On the days when I couldn’t be touched, you gave me space and let me talk. While my new medication kicked in, diminishing the nightmares, you didn’t budge an inch.

You loved me, every part of me, the raging, the desperate, the hopeless, and ultimately you saw me for who I really was. You saw the woman harbored deep inside of my illnesses. You waited patiently until the real me came back to you again, until I was myself. You continue to love me through it all.

I am your wife. I am your friend. I love you more than life itself. I’d give anything to be with you, and even when I try to push you away, just know this is when I need you the most.

You are my constant, my anchor. On some days, you are the only reason I continue fighting. So, to the man who has loved me through it, through everything I have unintentionally put you through, I owe you everything. You are my hero.

And I love you with all my heart.

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What Got Me Out of the Deepest Valleys of Bipolar Disorder

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Let me start by saying medication has been vital in my recovery, wellness and maintenance. The arsenal of counseling and psychiatric services has also played a huge role. Without these things, my life would still be in complete and total shambles.

However, I’ve come to realize the magnitude of the treatment that helped me the most with bipolar type 1 disorder. It sounds cliche, and maybe it is, but this is what pulled me through and out of some of the deepest valleys of my life.

The best treatment I ever received was love.

The sentiment of love gets tossed around a lot as we know, and has become cliche.

But the love I experienced wasn’t an ephemeral love. It was a compassionate love that didn’t have conditions. I didn’t have to perform a certain way in order to receive it. I have felt loved by several people, but most notably over the years by the unwavering support system I have in my parents.

In times when mental illness gripped me the hardest and I felt like the world turned its back on me, and when the white noise was deafening, they claimed me. And even more so they were proud of me.

They put the condemning weight of my burdens on themselves and then some. They laughed and sobbed with me. They celebrated my small accomplishments. They held me with a death grip when I felt helpless. They encouraged me. They stood up for me. They loved me when I didn’t have love for myself.

I was more important to them than the appearance of our family. They didn’t run from the diagnosis, but instead educated themselves and are now educating others. They put their own schedules on hold to be near me and to bring their little girl back. They emulated the agape love that God has for me. They were never ashamed to call me their daughter.

I love you Mom and Dad. Thank you for sharing in both my sorrow and healing. I could never fully articulate how grateful I am that your reservoir of grace never runs dry for me.

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I Won't Let Bipolar Disorder Claim My Life

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I’ve tried to kill myself more times than I can count – more times than I care to remember. And with each attempt, a part of me did die.

In one instance, I almost did die. I was hooked to a heart monitor for ages, and through the drug-induced fog, I could see the fear in the doctor’s eyes as he drew arterial blood, his movements urgent, frustration creasing his brow, telling me my blood pH was dropping dangerously. I remember the nurse seemed disgusted with me. She treated me with shame. Until she realized no visitors were coming to see me. That no one was coming to collect me. Then she knew. That was a long time ago.

I still remember the bars on the small window in the psychiatric hospital I was relegated to. I remember the polished steel screwed to the wall of the bathroom. No glass. Glass breaks.

I’ve tried to kill myself more times than I can count – and in no way, shape or form, did I ever want to die. I’ve never wanted to die. I’ve only ever wanted to be cured. To be rid of this illness, this hijacking of my brain, this disease called bipolar disorder. Some days I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was like stepping into a fire, over and over and
over.

After the last hospitalization, I remember how destroyed I felt. How I felt like a part of me was stripped away. And I remember, through my tears, confessing to my husband that I was terrified I’d die long before him. That I’d leave him a widower for decades. I closed my eyes and saw him wandering through the hallways of our home, photographs of our wedding day long ago coated in dust. I saw him alone.

And the real fear set in, far more terrifying than that heart monitor, more terrifying than the doctor’s urgency. More terrifying than the bars on my window or the girl in the next room screaming in the middle of the night. More agonizing than the constant cycle of emotions. More painful than my own pain. Seeing him alone.

I saw him at my funeral. I saw how broken he’d be. How hard it would be for him to move on. How at night, alone in our bed, he’d cry for me, the wife he left behind in the graveyard.

I still live with that fear. But it is that fear of seeing the smile gone from his face that keeps me fighting. Because I know he fights with me. All my loved ones fight with me because life without me would be too unbearable, too difficult, too lonely for them. I know what I mean to the people who love me.

So, whenever I feel like it’s all too much, it’s all too painful, when my energy is sapped from me, I tell them how I feel. I tell my husband I’m not doing well. I tell my best friend I need to reach out. And I let them love me. It doesn’t always make me happy again, but it brings me back from the brink.

I know I won’t back down. I know I won’t let this illness claim my life. I know I will keep fighting. And I know I have to keep fighting for them.

Because I’m a fighter.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Image via Thinkstock.

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To My Professors, From Your Student With Bipolar Disorder

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I’m a student. I have been for the better half of my life, and I love it. Well, I love most of it. Being a student allows me freedom to explore, to learn, to test my abilities and challenge the self-imposed limits of my life. It’s an incredible thing really.

I love attending your classes, leaning forward in my seat, pen in hand, soaking in the words that you, my professors, spill forth. All that learning, all that knowledge, I feel like a sponge. Yet, I grow afraid, timid and tentative. I walk on the edge between debilitating depression on my left and devastating mania on my right. In the middle is my passion, my love of learning and my longing to achieve something in my life of real substance. In the middle is the healthy part of myself.

You see, as much as I love learning, that love can be the exact same thing that will trigger either side of me, which I fight daily to keep at bay. I am a student. I am your student. And I have bipolar disorder.

My days as a student have a distinctive cycle. I have grown adept at recognizing the change of events, the slight shift in mood and the ever increasing speed of my thoughts. With school starting in just over a week, I am hesitant to dive in, which I know is what is required of me when I take your classes. You have an expectation of me, and you should have an expectation of me.

Please know if I dive too far, I will end up out in the ocean, drowning. Some days, I hope I can reach out to you to tell you I am dedicated, I am intelligent and I am a student you want to bet on. I will try my hardest in your class. I promise.

Yet, I may not always be in class. I may not always do well on my exams. I may not be the face you will recognize, but this doesn’t mean I am not a good student. It just means some days I simply can’t step foot out of my front door without crumpling with panic. Some days, I will have lost even the motivation to take another breath. On some exam days, I may be so riddled with self-doubt I can’t stop shaking, I will be sick to my stomach and the tears will be streaming down my face as my mind goes blank. I will want to run and give up on it all.

Some other days, I will be going so fast, speaking to you so rapidly, filled with so much excitement and my words all in a jumble. You just might think I am the most hyper student you’ve ever met. I probably am, today. Tomorrow… I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Please know I will be inconsistent. I can’t help it. My inconsistencies have no reflection on you as a lecturer, professor or mentor. It has nothing to do with the class, the schedule or the content. It has everything to do with fighting my own balancing act between dangerous depression and maniacal chaos.

What I want you to know most about me is I am not alone. I am one of thousands of students who attend your classes, year after year, who are too afraid, too ashamed, feel too guilty or too lost to approach you. I am one of the students whose seat you see vacant, perhaps for weeks. I am one of the students who is sitting at home, trying to keep her life together, while you are spilling forth the knowledge she is yearning to learn.

Please know I am still your student. But also know when you do see me in your class, leaning forward in my chair, pen in hand, that out of all the struggles in my life, all the hospitalizations, the medications and therapy sessions, I have chosen to spend my time with you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Image via Thinkstock.

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To My Friends and Family Who See Me Sharing Articles About Mental Illness

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I began a new voyage in my journey with my mental illness when I first opened and read some of The Mighty articles. I took a giant leap in that voyage when I decided to submit an article of my own. It meant more than I imagined after seeing a submission of mine published, and to push it even further, when I told and heard from a few people who read my submission to The Mighty that they were inspired. That was all that I ever wanted to benefit out of sharing a little about this part of my life.

Now when I share another person’s article, I wish to carry that along. I wish to help people understand and at the very most be inspired. Here is a list of a few of the many benefits and reasons I share Mighty articles.

1. It might open your eyes to these invisible illnesses.

Over time I have seen that it is true that mental illness can be truly invisible. Even when it is not, so very many people will still not be able to understand. That won’t ever stop me from helping in the least ways possible.

2. It takes a weight off my back.

Believe it or not, my mental illness places a weight on my shoulders that is hard to take off sometimes. Sharing with anyone willing to read the articles prove that I am not alone in my struggles I have no choice to go through.

3. It’s a reminder that this disorder does not define me or the authors of these clearly insightful articles.

Whenever it feels like having bipolar disorder is the only thing that people will see or judge me upon, sharing the experience of others shows that this doesn’t define any of us. This doesn’t have to be exclusive. We can have support and share our unchosen setbacks.

4. This is a passionate part of people’s lives.

If it wasn’t important to someone, these articles wouldn’t exist. Putting energy into these articles is a unique and special way of healing. With my mental illness, including others is giving myself a support system. Support systems take a lot of courage to build.

5. In a lot of these articles I couldn’t have expressed the experiences and emotions any better.

I like to have an open ear and it surprises me what I learn when I do. I hope you can hear us out in the mental illness community of saying what oftentimes needs to be said — or even more compassionately, what needs to be heard.

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I Live With Different Versions of Myself Due to Bipolar Disorder

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I have three versions of myself.

Two of them follow me around, chained to my ankles. I drag one and then the other. I can’t release them.

One version is shadows, a billowy wisp. Desiccated skin and scraggly hair. She cries agonizing moans and constantly whispers torment in my ear. She is misery and likes to tell me how we’d be better off alone. Better off dead. But she is so weak that I’m sure one strong breeze will come along and blow her away. But she never really does go. She is resilient in her misery, that one. She is always there, chained to my ankle.

The other version of me is maddening chaos. She is vile and destructive and delights in tearing my life apart. She torments me with visions of the most brilliant parts of myself, all bathed in glory, and then entices me to say, “Yes, yes, yes,” until I can’t say yes any longer. She laughs and tells me I can do anything I want, then tries to chase me until I can’t run any more. She chases me until I stumble and fall.

I live with bipolar disorder and those are my two versions.

The third version — the one dragging the other two — is me. Step after step. Lift, drag, drop. Next.

But sometimes that motion becomes too exhausting, too cumbersome. I have to keep dragging them, these two other versions of me. I have no choice. I can’t release them, so I have to keep moving or one will take hold, and I will be the one dragged along. Lift, drag, drop.

I’ve learned to keep that rhythm in my life, to keep those two other versions of me behind me, while I do the dragging. I’ve learned how to try and rest while still moving, without letting them get ahead of me. I’ve learned routine. I’ve learned self-care. I’ve built my own army of tools, psychiatrists, doctors, psychotherapists. I’ve padded my support system with loved ones, family, friends, even strangers. I’ve added to my constant, ceaseless march with open dialogue, communication, acceptance. I have my own bunker for when the full blast detonates.

I’ve removed my own stigma. I refuse to feel shame. I refuse to feel guilt.

But simply because I refuse doesn’t mean it doesn’t sneak in — that shame or that guilt. And then one of those two versions of myself gets close enough and starts whispering in my ear, and I stumble. Just a little. And that one single stumble terrifies me.

I’ve been doing this for more years than I’ve been alive. And I’m tired.

But what if I don’t have to drag these weights behind me alone? What if I don’t have to constantly keep ahead of myself? What if I don’t have to constantly fight the two versions of myself that threaten to tear my life apart?

What if anyone fighting with bipolar disorder doesn’t have to fight alone? What if these some five hundred words I write help to break those chains — for me or for someone else?

The chains are the stigma. The burden is the silence. The struggle is unnecessary.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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