Why I Feel Like a Bipolar Fraud
Although I’ve experienced bipolar-like highs and lows my entire life, it wasn’t until I was 26 when I received a proper “diagnosis.” It was clearly obvious at the time. It was shortly after a two month manic spree complete with extreme emotions that many would (justifiably) perceive as me being an abrasive, selfish, delusional jerk. That, in turn, nose-dived into one of the worst depressive episodes I have ever suffered through. So it didn’t take much effort to convince my therapist and psychiatrist at the time that I was bipolar. It was embarrassing to admit at first but I eventually grew to embrace it.
Bipolar wouldn’t be a disease that would control me and hold me down. Instead it would be a part (but certainly not all) of my identity and I would harness it in a way that it would become the centerpiece of my mental health advocacy. When many would take a magic pill to “cure” them of bipolar, I saw it as an adversity that would only strengthen my character and resilience.
But these days I am confused. I am 32 years old, I am happily married, I have an absolutely amazing puppy, I get to travel the country and publicly speak on mental health and the power of storytelling, and I’m surrounded by wonderful and supportive friends. And although I still have my challenges and pain points I honestly can’t complain much right now. Gone is the persistent and treatment-resistant depression that at times would drive me to suicidal ideation. Gone are the manic episodes that would that would bring out the worst qualities in me. And gone is the debilitating anxiety that would keep me in bed, unable to socialize with even my closest friends and even force me into a catatonic state. Yes, elements of those still exist, but I no longer fear being hospitalized or being driven to the brink of suicide.
Which leaves me questioning: am I even bipolar anymore? Is the worst behind me forever? And if it is do I even deserve to claim bipolar is part of my identity anymore?
Am I fraud?
I don’t believe that is something I will be able to answer in the immediate future, but it does help to put it out there publicly. I have no doubt many others feel the same way. And maybe some of them have come to the conclusion that bipolar is no longer a defining part of their lives. And maybe for others the feeling of identity comes and goes and it’s OK to question. So even though I currently feel like a “bipolar fraud” I don’t rush to discredit that feeling. There is a lot to explore in that feeling as well as the feeling of “bipolar proud.” And it is possible that the truth is somewhere in between.
In between the highs and the lows.
Getty image via Grandfailure