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Bipolar Disorder Taught Me That I’m a Gift, Not a Burden

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Dear Bipolar Disorder,

I filled up a whole journal dedicated just to you, BPD.  My cursive letters swirling around; every word different, but every meaning the same. In high school, you decided to keep me low, keep me worthless, which I told my journal.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

“I’m so stupid, I deserve to die. I’m so worthless, life is wasted on me. I’m such a burden, why does anyone claim to love me? I’m so ugly, how do people not vomit after looking at me?”

Always at my side like a shadow, your pitch-black fingers wrapped around every thought I had, and even the purest thoughts became stained.

My family surely thought you were going to be the death of me. Senior year, I became friends with the other girls in the psych hospital three different times. My grandparents had already lost a daughter, and now you made them fear that they would a granddaughter, too? How disgusting.

I fought you constantly with medications. Instead, you became ice-cold water, crashed down upon me, and rusted everything. You tidal-waved me again and again, rusted every set of armor I had. I still got up. You made me breathless, but you could not drown me.

Finally, I found an armor that, while chinked, could stand up to you. You saw this, and regrouped.  You realized that I could swim, but you knew I couldn’t fly.

You made me think I could, though. You waved a white flag and signed a peace treaty with me. You let me think that my medicine made you innocuous, that we could live side-by-side in harmony. Your fingers, no longer black, but the brightest, shiniest, most intense white, found their way back into my brain. You told me that, yes, driving 110 miles per hour was a good idea. You told me that sex was inconsequential.

Death got in your way, though. It didn’t stop you, just made you change your approach. When my grandfather died, you jumped at the opportunity to whisper worrying-nothings in my ear. You called up your good friend, General Anxiety Disorder, got together for brunch, and really brainstormed ways to make me miserable.

If I thought you were bad, BPD, I had another thing coming with GAD. He did a great job. For about a week after Grumpy, my grandfather, died, he made me hallucinate. Do you know what it’s like to feel like there’s a demon floating above you as you try to sleep? Do you know what it feels like to think its tongue is working its way into your ears? Do you know what it’s like to go to school with zero hours of sleep because of this, feeling crazy from the night before? I do.

GAD made my chest burn, and my stomach churn. And now when I get heartburn, I wonder what’s making me anxious. Do you know how hard it is to go to school when you have a panic attack a week? That didn’t stop me though. Even with all your BS, I’ve never failed a class.

Eventually, I decided I’d had enough of you, and I found a new psychiatrist. I told her about you, about everything, really.

It’s been about 9 months on my new medicine. I haven’t had a cigarette in seven and a half months. I’ve had one panic attack in this time. I’ve lost 40 pounds. I never skip class just because I feel like it. I do my homework and I listen to my professors. I find silver linings. I’m living on my own. I’m happy. And the best part is I know you can’t stand it. Good.

So I guess here’s what I would really like to say to you:

You put me through hell. You made me do things I regret tremendously. You made me think that I was worth nothing more than casual hookups. You put me in the hospital three times. You almost killed me.

But you know what? You also taught me that I am stronger than anything this world has to throw at me. By making me feel worthless, you taught me that I am worth the world. By making me feel like a burden, you taught me that I am a gift.

sydney palmer the mighty

By keeping me in the dark, you taught me to always look for the light. You made my life either black or white, but I’ve learned that this world is a mix of grey. You tried so hard to break me. And yeah, maybe you gave me a couple dents; maybe I cracked in a couple of places. But you failed.

I am whole. I am unbroken. I am beautiful, and smart, and funny, and caring. I am an important part of this world, no matter how many times you told me that the world didn’t need me. I love myself a million times more than you ever hated me. I am so much more than you. You will never control me again, just watch.

Not yours anymore,

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Originally published: March 26, 2015
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