5 Reasons I'm Thankful for My Bipolar Disorder
A little less than six months ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder. Since then, I’ve been on a personal and spiritual journey, trying to figure out what exactly my mental illness means to me. At times it is debilitating, causing me to collapse from hypomanic euphoria into the devastating darkness of depression. At times it is annoying, not knowing what my moods will be like from one day to another. But not all of it is terrible. In fact, I think there is some good that comes from having experience with mental illness. After a great deal of heartfelt reflection, I have identified five reasons why I’m actually grateful for my bipolar disorder.
1) It encourages my creativity.
I attribute a great amount of my creative capacity to my hypomanic episodes. Some of my best writing takes place while I am experiencing hypomania. The episodes get my creative juices flowing, allowing me to produce some of my best work. While hypomania can be problematic in its own right, it certainly fosters my artistic side.
2) It helps start conversations that need to be had.
I’m a huge advocate of mental health awareness, and I firmly believe having an open and continuing dialogue on mental health will help to combat stigma. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to get this type of discussion going. I find that by sharing my own story, I can start the conversation on mental health with a little more ease. It also adds a personal, anecdotal element to an otherwise clinical topic.
3) It makes my accomplishments that much more meaningful.
Living with a mental illness adds a layer of difficulty to the undertaking of certain tasks. I am finding this to be especially true as I navigate college, internships and job opportunities. Pursuing academic or professional goals can be really challenging from time to time. Yet, when I do find myself having accomplished something, it gives me all the more reason to celebrate. While bipolar disorder creates some obstacles my daily life, it also makes me appreciate and cherish all the things I have accomplished, as well as all the difficulty I have overcome.
4) It gives me a fresh perspective on life.
Without my diagnosis, I don’t know if I would nearly appreciate life for what it is. Living with bipolar 2 has really opened my eyes to the world and the people around me. It has encouraged me to foster authentic relationships and communicate openly and honestly with others. It has given me the ability to adopt the feelings of others, to really get in touch with other people. It has even shaped my faith life, giving me hope in my own future and that of the world around me. More than anything, my disorder has given me a greater appreciation for the small things: a morning sunrise, a hug from a friend, a passing grade on a quiz, a smile from a co-worker. When your mood varies at unknown intervals, it becomes much more important to take comfort in life’s stable, little things.
5) It encourages me to be more empathetic to others.
The biggest lesson my condition has taught me is one of compassion. My experience has shown me the importance of reaching out to others and trying to understand them. Just as others strive to understand me when I am struggling, I want to empathize with others and help them in their own struggle. I want to use my own story to help others who are struggling with mental health issues. I want to be an advocate for them, a voice for them. Hopefully, one day, I can use my experience to make a difference in the lives of others.
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Thinkstock photo via Halfpoint