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My Life as an Activist With Bipolar Disorder

Activism isn’t easy. It takes dedication, drive, effort, energy and more work than you can imagine. You dedicate yourself to a cause you believe in, putting your entire self, sometimes even more than you think you have inside of yourself, into it. You are the face of your cause, you are in the trenches, you plan and stage protests, you can put yourself in danger for the sake of what you believe in, you raise your voice for your cause, and sometimes you raise your voice for those who wish to but can’t raise their voices with you. 
Recently I took part in a political demonstration in which I was forcefully removed by police officers, held in handcuffs for hours, and detained in a holding cell for even longer. During this entire action, I felt no fear or stress. I remained calm and proud the entire time (even while detained) and had no trouble keeping my composure throughout the entire ordeal.

In the end, we were released with no charges. I felt empowered, invigorated, excited and proud for the stand that my movement made that day.

These feelings lasted for the remainder of the day.

I woke up the next day feeling incredibly, utterly low. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to speak, I didn’t want to move.

However, my fellow activist who had accompanied me to New York warmly encouraged me to rise, to get ready for the day, to prepare ourselves to go to the courthouse to respond to the summons we had received the previous day at our protest. She even went down the street to the nearest Starbucks and brought us each back a coffee. She knows I have bipolar disorder, but I don’t think she fully understands, as many people don’t, the entire scope of what I go through.

I was drained, I was depressed, and more than anything I was irritable. The events of the previous day, as proud and happy as I was about them, had taken the effect I had feared they would. It had triggered me into a lull, which remains as I write this four days later.

I do not regret what I did, I do not regret being a part of an activist group that fights for equality for women, minorities and oppressed people everywhere.

The point of this, I suppose, is to explain that despite all the happiness I have the ability to feel, more than anything I can feel there is no point at all. My high days are exquisite, and I feel I can accomplish anything. I make plans for elaborate trips across the world despite having $30 in the bank. I convince myself I am a gift to the world, that I am important, essential for the earth to keep spinning.

My low days consist of immobility, irritation, crushing sadness, paranoia and hopelessness. Medication helps the mania a bit, but I’ve yet to find any medication cocktail that takes the unbearable sadness away.

Despite all of this, there is a part of me, a spark, a tiny fire inside that keeps me going. I know my bad days will end, I know my good days are fleeting, I’m beginning to understand and recognize my mania as the years pass after my diagnosis of bipolar 1. I know I am important, but I also know I’m no more important than any other living person in this world.

I know these things to be fact, but at times it’s just hard to remember.

In finding my voice in activism, I found a cause, I found drive, I found purpose. I cannot stop fighting for what I believe in, which mirrors the battle I fight inside myself every day. We all matter, we are all deserving of love, and we must remember this, even on our bad days. We must never give up the fight.

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Thinkstock photo by Butsaya