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Asking for Help For My Bipolar Disorder When I Had a Reputation For Being ‘Strong’

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I have four brothers and no sisters. So, as you can imagine, I had to be very tough at a young age. This is what I truly pride myself on — my toughness. Well, even though this is a great quality to have, it did have some negative to it. See, everyone expected me to be this tough woman all the time. Well, deep down inside, that was not the case all the time.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I still believe when I was I high school I was dealing with bipolar disorder, but I was not medically diagnosed until my mid-20s. So, I remember coming home some days and just feeling defeated; after all, holding all those feelings inside will do that to you. I would spend a lot of time in my room, just crying or screaming because again, I had to be this “tough” lady and I did not want to show that I was not that person. Deep down inside, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “ I am struggling over here, I am not OK,” but could not have the courage to ask for help.

You might be saying, “but why?” I felt like it would take away my reputation for my strength I had built and did not want that to happen. Plus, again — having four brothers, I have always felt I had to be automatically strong and asking for help to me would be a sign of weakness and I did not want to be portrayed as “weak.” Another big reason was wondering if my parents believe me or think I was “faking” it for attention. I was not sure how they would feel and that scared me as well.

So, for years, even after high school, I would do the same routine, hold all my fears and worries and mood swings inside of me and then once I was home, I would go into my room and let it all out. To be honest with you, this started to become quite exhausting and I was not sure how much longer I could do it. I started to use unhealthy coping skills to help me out with the mood swings and pain. I was drinking a lot more and self-harming to help me cope. Later, I had a suicide attempt.  Again, the bottom line was I did not want my reputation of being strong to be destroyed.

I remember the day I asked for help though. It was on Christmas and I remember crying all day. I stayed downstairs because I did not want to ruin the day for my family. Later that evening, I fought hard and had enough pain, I went and told my parents I needed to talk to them. They came and sat down at the kitchen table, and I sat across from them. I looked at them and said the exact words: “I need help, I am not doing well, I can not do this anymore and I do not want to live anymore.” When I was saying this, tears were streaming down my face and I could not hide the pain anymore or hold it in. I remember their expression on their faces was shock. They gave me a hug and told me: let’s go to the hospital and get you help. So, that evening we did just that, and that was my first stay at a psychiatric hospital.

Once I was hospitalized, I realized there that it was OK to ask for help at any point in my life that I need it. It was my second hospitalization that I really accepted that I will need to manage and cope with bipolar disorder for the rest of my life. It was there also that I knew that for 100% it is OK to ask for help, that it is not a sign of weakness either. I have said it before, that even though I thought it was going to change my reputation, it did not. I know asking for help has made me feel stronger because I had the courage to say I needed help.

Now, as you can tell, it took me years to ask for help, but I did it and I continue to ask for help if I need to. I just wish I would have asked sooner. Maybe then, I would not have had to deal with all that pain. Even though most days are filled with sunshine and joy for me, on those “raining and stormy days,” my “umbrella” is called asking for help. The best part is I am blessed because I have a lot of people I can rely on for this help. My best advice for anyone dealing with any struggles of any kind, not just with their mental health, is to ask for help. Find resources, hotlines, people and get the help you need. Believe me, life is not full of roses, but you do not need to struggle alone. It may not take the pain or struggle away completely, but it will help you get through it a lot easier. Stay strong!

Photo by Hailey Wright on Unsplash

Originally published: May 1, 2021
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