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Why I Wear My Bipolar Like a Badge of Honor

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I’m allowing my bipolar to be a badge of honor.

I know at this moment you are going, “‘Crazy’ lady say what?”

But the truth is I am the strongest person I know. Bipolar is horrible, but I fought back and became stronger. This horrible, painful disease made me fight. I fight to fall asleep every night when insomnia hits. I fight to wake up to go to work when my body is frail and wasted from not going enough rest. I fight to smile and control all emotions so no one will see my anger, my anxiety, my overwhelming joy or whatever bipolar threw my way that day. I fight the fatigue that drains my body throughout the day.

I fight not go near or become dependent on shopping, alcohol, food, drugs or whatever I think I need to ease my pain at the end of the day. I fight to be productive even when I feel like I’m more tired than everyone. Because I never compare myself to them. As I lay my head back on my pillow, I fight the urge not to think about tomorrow.

So yes, bipolar is a badge of pride. I am a fighter, and no one can take that away from me.

I’m a child sculpted out of mania, rage, tears and joy. I’m a child formed out of bipolar. When I was tired, bipolar taught me to keep going. When I had 50 emotions, bipolar taught me self-control. I worked harder than the day before because I never knew when I was going to feel OK again. Through the pain, I became the strongest person I know.

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The Kindness of a Psych Ward Staff Member Saved My Life

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I hit rock bottom in life a little more than 10 years ago. I lost everything that was important to me, from my child, to my car, to my house, to my dignity.

This is when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I ended up spending six weeks in a short-term psych ward. The average stay there was five to seven days. I blew that average right out of the water.

I made a lot of poor choices before that hospital stay, which ultimately cost me custody of my child. For a time, it also cost me my family and friends. When I was staying at this hospital, I had no friends or family to come visit me. Everyone had written me off. I had no one to call during open phone time. I had no one to bring me money to get a soda or something besides the semi-edible hospital food.

That kind of isolation will wear on a person, until they begin to truly believe they are nothing more than a body breathing air and taking up space. This being a difficult point in my life, I actually contemplated ways to end my life while in the hospital. I hated myself, and I felt like no one should waste their time on me.

Since I had that attitude, several of the nurses and techs treated me as such. There was one who didn’t though. He treated me as if I were a person, as if I mattered. He was always subtle in his approach to letting me know I had value, but it was always there. It was the little things like getting me a soda every week or so or buying me french fries from the cafe downstairs. He knew I wasn’t getting that stuff any other way. He would let me choose the radio station and encourage me to rock out.

These don’t sound like huge things, but they were life-altering for me. I was able to slowly come back from the brink of the dark abyss because of his actions. I started writing while in the hospital, to get the words that were poisoning my soul out. I started trying to live again, even though every day was like having a glass shard in my heart.

I learned a valuable lesson from this man’s treatment of me. I learned that you never know how much of a difference you can make in a person’s life by being kind. So be kind, always. He’ll never know that he helped save my life, just by treating me as a person.

Now, I try to pay that forward whenever I can. Random acts of kindness are my favorite things to do. If you’re ever in a position to either be kind or say something hurtful, then always try and choose the higher road. You never know when you’ll be saving a person’s life by doing so.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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On the Days Happiness Is Just a Tease

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Wake up, shake up, searching my brain,

Good day or bad day again?

Out of bed to clean and call a friend,

Is this the day I will be on the mend?

Nope, it’s telling me the same old stuff.

You’re worthless.

They hate you.

You’ll never be enough.

I hate days like these.

Dragging me down, happiness just a tease.

On those few days I feel like me,

I remember how I once used to be,

Happy, laughing friends and free.

I’d give anything to just be me.

You hear a lot about mental health these days. It’s hard when people don’t fully understand it. I live with bipolar disorder, emotionally unstable personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder, which ties into my anxiety and panic attacks

I’ve been this way since a teenager, and now, I’m 25. I’ve destroyed so many friendships, so many relationships. I have so many people hate me (or at least I think they do).

Well, a lot of people have said they do.

The problem is I already hate myself. I also have my thoughts and this little voice I hear telling me I’m worthless, I’m nothing and that I have destroyed my life. I can’t even walk out my front door without someone accompanying me, in case I’m attacked. Of course, that’s only on the days I can actually get out of my bed.

There is a lighter side these days though. I’m in a new relationship and holding this one down so far. Seeing my mental health team helps me vent my emotions even when they are hard to express. Every minute of every day is a struggle. I’ve tried to end it, but I won’t let go. I won’t give up this time. I will carry on. I will stay strong. I hope this time it works.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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5 Tips That Got My Mental Health Recovery Back on Track After a Crisis

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It’s inevitable at times for something to happen that can shatter the beautiful recovery we’ve worked so hard to maintain. This is life. Reclaiming that recovery after a crisis can happen, but it may take some time. I recently had to deal with a few crises that happened all at once, which almost broke me. Here is a list of some tips that helped me and may help you get back on the road to recovery.

1. Focus on getting sleep.

There is so much to say about sleep therapy, especially with an illness like bipolar disorder. Make sure both during and after the crisis you get enough sleep. I know that depending on the severity of the crisis, you may not be able to sleep. However, bipolar disorder is one of those illnesses that can require you to maintain a routine. If you are able to, make sure you at least go to bed at the same time every night, even if it is just to close your eyes and rest your body.

One of the events that happened to me recently was that my son had unexpected surgery, and I stayed with him in the hospital every night. I made sure to go to sleep on my regular schedule, which helped me get through this tough situation more smoothly. If you are unable to maintain your normal sleep routine during a given crisis, when the crisis is resolved, try to get back into your sleep routine as soon as possible. Here is an article that may be beneficial for you in your quest to get back into a sleep routine.

2. Make sure to take your medication.

Another thing that helped me through these crises was being sure to take my medication regularly. Taking my medication helped prevent an even bigger crisis from unfolding: a relapse. So even though I was going through tough situations and dealing with a tsunami of emotions, I knew I would be in a better state after it was all over than I would have been if I stopped taking my medication.

3. Lean on others when you need help.

I tend to try to tackle everything on my own. I hold back from asking others for help because I am extremely independent and feel like asking for help shows weakness. However, when the load is just too much to bear, it’s OK for you to ask for help. Your loved ones would probably rather you ask for help than see you overwhelmed or get hurt. At one point during these crises, I reached my breaking point. I called family members who would make my work load more bearable, and it was the best decision I ever made. You never have to struggle or face things alone.

4. Prioritize.

Trying to get back to the way life was before a crisis can be a difficult journey. My life was flipped upside-down, so the best thing for me was to prioritize my life. Basically, I tackled situations and tasks that needed my immediate attention while less important tasks that were not as relevant were put on hold for the time being. This helped me feel less overwhelmed and not like I was drowning in all of my responsibilities.

5. Be kind and patient with yourself.

It can take time for you to get back to the way you were before your life took this twist. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to be back to normal overnight. There will likely be meltdowns, crying spells, and thoughts of giving up. During these times, be kind to yourself and do something for you. Self-care is one of the most important parts of recovery with any mental illness. Do something fun: go for a walk, eat your favorite food, meet up with a good friend, watch a movie, drink some coffee, or get a pedicure. You only live once, so take care of yourself and know that in time, recovery will happen.

These twists and turns in life can be challenging for a person living with bipolar disorder, but the tips I just listed and discussed can help you through a crisis and help you get back on your feet afterwards. Life is not easy, nor is it linear — so we just have to make sure we have the tools we need to recover from whatever life presents us with. If I can do it, I know you can, too.

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A version of this post originally appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation.

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Dear Younger Me Struggling With Bipolar Disorder

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Dear my younger self,

I wish I could tell you everything works out in the end. I know growing up in a home that was always in shambles was scary. It shaped your outlook, and made it seem like the the world is a scary place because you’ve never known safety. I know growing up with anxiety and never learning coping mechanisms was exhausting. You’ve questioned your worth so many times, resorting to self-harming at the young age of 7.

It seemed like there was no place for you in the world, where your qualities could shine. The world was a cold, dark place and all you felt was sadness and pain. The sadness consumed you at age 12, with your first attempt at suicide. I wish I could tell you that you are worth more than people are willing to see. After being hospitalized for my first suicide attempt, you had a great support community, and you began to recover successfully.

Entering high school changed everything. I am sorry I have caused you so much pain. I know it was easy to bury the pain from the past and continue like nothing ever happened, but then it happened again. The sadness consumed you, and the self-harming began.

Yet, this time was different. The colors seemed brighter, and you were flying close to the sun. I wish I had caught this manic episode when it first happened, and I am sorry I didn’t. I did not understand my feelings, and there was no safe environment for me.

During manic episodes, I engaged in so much risky behavior that ended up leaving more scars. These scars would be buried so deep in hope that I would never have to face them again. It is hard to talk to someone about what happened, but I wish you did because that post-traumatic stress has caused so many problems in your life.

Despite having great friends who were always there to support you, you should have told them what was really going on. I know withdrawing from society is all you know, but you can learn how to cope properly with the help of friends and family. I know you have a fear that they will judge you or not understand, but that is OK. I wish I could tell you if your friends judge you or don’t understand, then they aren’t worth your time. There are good people in the world, I promise. You just need to give people a chance.

I know there will be days when you sit and contemplate suicide. Please, remember you have held on this long because it’s not your time yet. You still have much to do in this world, and one day you will have a fiance who loves you very much. You will have the ability to be in a safe environment where you can have bipolar episodes that do not have quite as terrible consequences. You will be able to find yourself. You just need to hang on.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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What It's Like in the Midst of a Mixed Episode

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I am currently in a mixed episode. I am primarily in a hypomanic state whilst showing symptoms of mild depression. Mixed states are in a league of their own. I cannot keep up with my moods.

Earlier tonight, I was feeling depressed. I didn’t want to talk, move or do anything. An hour later and I am extremely irritable and restless, a downside to being hypomanic. I want to go out. I want to socialize. I want to drink, have sex, whatever! Anything just to be out of this apartment or to be doing something at all!

It is so hard to keep up with the mood changes. Normally, I cycle through moods every few days, weeks or months, but very rarely do I go through several mood changes in a day. These aren’t just the slight mood swings we used to get as teenagers. These are drastic shifts in mood. It is exhausting.

Right now, I am angry, angry because I am restless. Why did I have to sit around at home all night? Why didn’t I make plans to do something? Why didn’t I go and get myself a bottle of wine?

When these moods come, I get urges to do things that don’t make sense, break things and bang my head out of frustration. All senseless ways of releasing energy. If it wasn’t 10 p.m., then I would be going for a walk or something to ease the restlessness. Yet, years of insight gained has taught me to sit and ride out these moods as best I can.

It’s hard to explain, especially to people like my husband who like being homebodies, especially when I like being a homebody too. It’s hard to explain this sudden urge to want to do something, anything. Boredom quickly turns into frustration which turns into anger. I feel like screaming or literally pulling out my hair, punching the wall, banging my head on the wall or even throwing this laptop out the window.

Medication eases this feeling a little bit, and I am due for my daily dose soon. Hopefully, this feeling will subside. I’m emotionally and mentally tired of playing catch up with my moods. I need relief, something just to quiet the racing thoughts. They’re so fast they don’t even make sense. I can’t even grasp a thought long enough to figure out what is on my mind.

You may think to yourself, “This doesn’t sound too bad. Stop being a sook,” but it is bad. It’s so draining. In this state of mind, I haven’t the eloquence of words to properly explain to you just how tiresome and troubling these moods really are.

Yes, I am much more elated or hypomanic, but not in the sense of happiness. There’s a surge of energy going through me. It feels like fire or electricity. My whole body is tingling from it, but there’s also this burning anger and the urge to hurt myself just to release all these feelings.

It’s time to take my medication. Hopefully, this feeling becomes less intense and the medication dulls it down a bit.

Follow this journey on Manic Memoir

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