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Who Am I Without My Bipolar Disorder and Other Mental Illnesses?

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Who am I without my mental illnesses? The truth is, I’ll never know the answer because even though I am “in remission,” I will always be battling something. My mental health conditions and neurological differences shape me to be who I am, and often in a positive way.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

But, how can something like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or anorexia nervosa be a good thing?

I personally believe I was born with mental illness from the start, with stressors and traumas further activating it as I grew up (and continue to grow as a person). I know that, while today I am doing relatively well, there were many instances throughout my life, particularly at 19, when I would do anything to cease my OCD — my constant intrusive thoughts and compulsions. Even just one year ago, I was in the psychiatric ward at a local hospital because of suicidal ideation and depression that is so often a part of bipolar and BPD. During those moments, I wished my mental illnesses had never existed.

Today, while in a more stable mindset and further into my recovery, I find myself thinking that something good has to come out of my mental illnesses. For one, I am now a mental health advocate. I share my stories through my writing and social media platforms, as a means to help others. I have received several messages of thanks and appreciation because of this. I have had many others tell me their stories because I made them feel less alone.

In addition, I live with the belief that my mental illness and my creativity is connected. I’ve done a lot of reading about this subject, and there seems to be a connection between mood disorders and creativity, particularly bipolar disorder. I feel that the same can be said about anxiety, OCD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I find that my hyperfocus abilities, a component of ADHD, contribute to my writing and art, while my hypomania and even depression has instilled inspiration in my work.

Lastly, I want to share that my experience with mental illness has helped me gain immense empathy for others who are struggling — not necessarily with mental health issues, but with anything. Life has its challenges, and I feel everyone is dealing with something. I want to be there for others.

So, who am I without my mental illness? I do not want to only identify as “bipolar” or “OCD” or as someone damaged by trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — no. Rather, I am Kelly, a 26-year-old woman who loves dogs and writing. I am in graduate school for creative writing, after pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I am a good friend; I am kind and empathetic. I am who I am, not in spite of my mental illnesses, but perhaps because of them.

Image via contributor

Originally published: November 2, 2020
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