Three years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. It was scary and confusing, but in a way, it was also liberating. I finally had a reason for the long bouts of depression and the high octane stretches I learned were manic episodes. At 27, I had an explanation for the previously unexplainable. It wasn’t me, it was the disease.
Now that I’ve sorted a little bit of that out, I find myself turning less to defining the disorder and more to defining me. Instead of marking things off as a symptom of the bipolar, I want to know who I really am.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. I am loud.
When whatever holy being (I’ll go with God) created me, they omitted volume control. My whisper can be as loud as other people’s regular speaking voices, and when I get excited or passionate, you can hear me from across the room. This is not the result of mania or anxiety, it’s just me.
2. I have a ‘Type A’ personality.
I thought this might go away once I started my medication, but now that I’ve been medicated and in therapy for a while, I’m realizing it’s just who I am. Yes, it was certainly exasperated by manic episodes, but take away the mania, and I am still just as driven, ambitious and competitive.
3. I am a “crier.”
Or a sobber. Sobbing is more my style. Commercials with puppies, championship sports games, books, movies, weddings — I have teared up during or sobbed through all of these. I cry when I’m frustrated or relieved. Occasionally, I cry and laugh of the same time.
And the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself?
4. I am resilient.
The bipolar wants to trick me into thinking I’m not strong enough. It wants me to think I’ll never make it and my life will always only be a tennis match between depression and mania. But I’m still here. I’ve survived the three years since my diagnosis and the countless years before. More than surviving, I’m actually living my life. I have a husband I love more than anything, incredible and supportive friends and a job I truly enjoy. If we are keeping score, I am winning by a long shot.
I will always have bipolar. I don’t believe medication and therapy will magically “cure” me. But now I know I am so much more than a disorder.
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Thinkstock photo via kameshkova.