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I Have Bipolar Disorder, but I Am Not My Bipolar Disorder

“I am bipolar.”

These three words strung together are ones you will never hear come out of my mouth.

At age 16, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. I was displaying symptoms several years before my diagnosis. However, I had become an expert at putting on masks. Even through years of therapy beginning at age 13, I was technically undiagnosed mostly because I refused to open up and believe I wasn’t “normal.” As a result of so much hiding, all that tension overflowed when I was alone. I would cry and hurt myself for hours on end. There were several close calls on my life. Luckily, I found relatively effective medication very soon following my diagnosis.

I was not so fortunate with my next diagnosis. It was only in this last year that I was diagnosed with bipolar II. My psychiatrist, therapist, parents and GP have spent months trying to find medication that would accommodate all of my various symptoms. With all the different types of pills going through my system, this year of my life has been one of the hardest. There have been countless feelings I had never felt before that I was not sure how to deal with. I struggled with my identity; I struggled with absolute hopelessness. And the struggle continues.

Personally, when I hear someone say they “are bipolar” or “are chronically ill,” I want to give them a good hug and maybe a good shake. I have been told I am diagnosed with a disorder. People may identify me by my disorder. The disorder undoubtedly affects every aspect of my life. But, no matter what my brain tells me…

I am not my disorder. 

My disorder does not define me. 

I am not my disorder. 

I may have bipolar disorder, but I am not bipolar. This truth has been one of the hardest things my brain has had to process in the midst of my struggle. But, when it comes down to it, it is the most important. There will undoubtedly be days when the effects of my disorder seem to fill every nook and cranny of my mind, but I can look to this and remember that these feelings don’t last forever.

There are lots of things about me that are great. I usually have to do some major rationalizing to convince myself I am these things, but the fact remains that I am not my disorder. I am empathetic, brave, creative, loving and strong, but I am not bipolar.

There are lots of things about me that aren’t the greatest. These feelings may persist for weeks or months on end, but they do not last forever. I have feelings of depression, panic, self-loathing, exhaustion and irritability, but I am not bipolar.

If you are afflicted with a mental disorder, try whispering this out loud to yourself: I am not my disorder. Keep doing it. It may feel like a stretch in the moment, but it is a statement of truth. It could get you through your pain-filled day. You are not your disorder. You are resilient. You are a warrior; keep fighting.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Image via Guillaume Bolduc