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I Am Bipolar. This Is What I Want You to Know.

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Editor’s note: The following originally appeared on the writer’s Facebook page.

I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything on Facebook. I’m not exactly sure why I chose today, but here goes. I don’t think anyone will actually read this so I guess I don’t really have anything to lose.

The world can be a cruel place. God, if you believe in God, can play devastating tricks on people. There are many debilitating diseases out there that affect millions of people every day. People suffer endlessly, people die painfully and all the while their loved ones suffer as they watch the inevitable happen. They watch as cruel fate destroys life. They watch as love and happiness crumble into darkness and death.

I believe the ultimate cruelty, however, lies in the silent suffering. The disease you can’t see. The disease that creeps in without warning and slowly, methodically and inevitably kills you from the inside, deep within the depths of your brain. Without explanation, without prejudice and without mercy it consumes you, paralyzing you, forever changing you. Your mind becomes a dictator and you are powerless to stop it.

My name is Chad and I am bipolar. I have been for most of my life. I knew at a very young age that there was something “wrong” with me. I had wild mood swings that left me sobbing uncontrollably one minute, then to uncontrollable rage the next. Alcohol and a litany of drugs were a constant in my life from the time I was 14. “Self-medication” was all I knew. I couldn’t control my mind or my thoughts by myself, but when you are a teenager, what else can you do? I wanted to die, but I couldn’t bring myself to suicide at that young age, so I did incredibly reckless things to hopefully do it for me. That is for another story. It didn’t work.

I am 43 years old now. I have been to dozens of doctors, therapists and psychiatrists. I have been on just about every medication there is. I have experienced every up, every down and every gut-wrenching side affect imaginable. I have been hospitalized, poked, prodded, tested and humiliated. And yet, after all that, here I still am, hopelessly broken, sad, exhausted, alone in my struggle, still wanting to die every day, just like when I was a teenager, just to get some peace. It’s never ending. It’s relentless.

So what is this all about you ask? This is not a cry for help. I am way beyond that. This is to let you know each and every one of you, whether you know it or not, has a friend, has a family member, has someone out there who is struggling — and they desperately need someone to reach out to them. It doesn’t take much, only a few seconds, just to say, “Are you OK?” Three simple words can make all the difference.

Lately, it seems to be a fashionable thing for celebrities to come forward and talk about their private struggles with mental illness. I think that is great. Breaking down the stigma and shame of mental illness should be on the forefront of the American conversation.

I am not a celebrity. I am a regular person who has a voice and I have something important to say — a desperate plea for everyone reading this to share this with anyone who will listen. If you are struggling, you are not alone. Reach out to someone, anyone, just do it. If you know someone who is struggling or you think might be, reach out to him or her today, you just might save a life.

Suicide is devastating, there is no question. For those left behind there are only unanswered questions and hurt feelings. So often we hear “I had no idea.” Take it from someone who has made the conscious decision to take their own life, only to be brought back and given a second chance. In that desperate moment, when all is lost, we are not ending it all to spite the people who will be left behind, we make that decision because we no longer want to hurt the people who are watching us suffer the most. We want to give them a reprieve from the pain and anguish that lingers day after day in the depths of despair and depression. It’s the only way. It’s an awful choice. Just imagine thinking that death is a better option than life. 

I would like to thank anyone who is still reading this. If you take only one thing from this, remember just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they are any less of a human being. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed. You don’t have to struggle alone, you don’t need to be afraid and you don’t have to be silent anymore. 

Life is filled with endless possibilities. We all have our own path. Take the time to make a difference in someone’s life if you have the chance. There is truly nothing that is more rewarding.

Since this is social media, go ahead and share this, get the word out there. This story is not over by any means, it has only just begun.

My name is Chad. I am bipolar. I am no longer ashamed. For many years I have not been afraid to die. I can now honestly say that I am no longer afraid to live.

Thank you.

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