Three or four months ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I have gone back and forth in my head about if I could continue writing about mental health and disclose this new diagnosis with anyone. Not one person in my family knows about this, and maybe three friends are aware of it. There is so much self-doubt, confusion, sadness, and a gamut of other feelings that come along with getting that diagnosis.
I have been agonizing these last few months and hiding my diagnosis from nearly everyone because I don’t want to be looked upon differently or lose any relationships because of it. I have been in this tug-of-war with myself; one side desperately wants my friends and family to know and thus be fully accepted for who I am, and the other side wants to conceal and hide it at all costs. The fear that people will think of me differently, treat me differently, or even cut off ties with me is real, and it is always present. I don’t want to be this afraid of it anymore. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide myself to be accepted by the people I love.
Because I am not different. I am me, and I am who I’ve always been. The only difference is that I have a name for what I have been living with and experiencing for the great majority of my life.
I am writing this right now to help break the shame and stigma I put upon myself, and to say I have bipolar disorder.
“We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic… an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder.” — Carrie Fisher
When I was diagnosed, I revisited and delved deeper into Carrie Fisher’s novels and explored her words and experiences in living with bipolar disorder. No, not just living with it — thriving, struggling, succeeding with it. She has been an open, fierce mental health advocate, and that is something I admire so much in her. She was unabashedly herself and was completely unapologetic about who she is. She was never quiet or shy about her struggles or her ability to overcome. She was a person who brought voice to countless people who were silent about their struggles and made people feel less alone. I sit here trying to imagine all of the people she has touched and inspired for this very reason, and I wonder what these people would be like if they didn’t have her example. She chose to embrace it and share it and to not live her life concealing her diagnosis and hiding.
Today, I choose to do the same.
Carrie Fisher is more than just Princess Leia to me and to many others. She was the first feminist heroine I was exposed to. Her words in her writing, candidly speaking of her struggles and her triumphs regarding mental illness have helped push me and kept my head up on the tough days of fighting mine.
Carrie, thanks for your refreshing candor, acute self awareness, sense of humor, and ability to never take yourself too seriously. Thank you for showing girls and women that we are heroes too. Thank you for being a brave advocate and example to so many people.
“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.” – Carrie Fisher
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Photo by Gage Skidmore