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Having Bipolar Disorder Taught Me I Don't Have to Be 'Perfect' on the Inside


For as long as I can remember I’ve been striving for perfection on the inside, instead of the outside. It seems counterintuitive to say this because most of the time we’re taught that perfection comes from outward appearances.

When I was younger this rang true, but now it seems all I want is to feel perfect on the inside. My diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2007 was a relief. I finally had a name for what was going on inside my head, but felt like something inside of me was “broken.” I have spent the last decade trying to outrun my diagnosis, through embracing it at times and outright denying in others. All because I want so desperately to feel the unattainable, “perfect normalcy” on the inside.

I imagine if you’re on the outside and looking in on my life you’d think I was, for the most part, “normal” and maybe even close to “perfect.” The beauty of social media is you are able to craft an image for the world to take in. Don’t get me wrong, I write about my struggles. I’ve written about my depression and surviving suicide so people also catch a glimpse of the reality of my life. I wonder though if sometimes I’m trying to fool myself.

In my quest for feeling perfect on the inside, am I denying myself the ability to feel?

I work hard at a job I am good at. I work hard to maintain good grades at ASU. I work hard to be the best wife, mom and friend I can be. I work so hard to be perfect on the inside so I’m perfect in all these roles.

But the truth is, I’m exhausted.

I’m finding ways to be OK with sometimes not feeling OK. I’m finding ways to be still enough to recognize when my brain is going a bit haywire and my emotions are running high. I’m finding ways to look in the mirror every day and say, “you are perfectly imperfect and you don’t have to hide.”

I’m good with having bipolar disorder. It sometimes allows me to be more creative in a lot of ways. I’m good with listening to my body. That’s part of the stillness, it forces me to pay attention. I’m learning how to be enough for myself and sometimes that means not being enough for anyone else. I’m learning how to be good with not having to be perfect on the inside.

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Thinkstock photo via Ralwel.