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I Thought I Was the Only One I Knew With Bipolar Disorder

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When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II after 20 years living with a depression diagnosis, it felt like a king-sized relief. At last there was an explanation of what was happening to me, my brain and with my behavior. 

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Then, I realized — I didn’t know anyone else who lived with bipolar. So there I was all super-freaky, out there on my own like a dog in a yard. My diagnosis was no longer the supreme relief I originally thought it was.

My psychiatrist gave me a copy of Kay Redfield Jamison’s book “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. I am a prolific and fast reader. Add a topic I have a vested interest in and I become a voracious reader. I read the book overnight and then read it again. It was an amazing and insightful explanation of how bipolar type I affected Redfield Jamison. It spoke to my experiences over the past 20 years. Although Redfield Jamison’s experiences, her manias, were far more extreme than mine have been, they resonated. As did her depression. The book was so valuable because it was an open sharing, a full disclosure.

It became my inspiration. Not only to stand up and be counted. Not only to speak openly and comfortably about mind health matters on a weekly radio program, but to also share my story in short snippets as well as in my own book.

And as I started telling people about my 20-year experience with depression and my recent bipolar diagnosis, something interesting happened. Suddenly, every person I spoke to wanted to tell their story. It became OK to share their work, social, familial or personal experiences of mind health matters with me. I heard about my uncle who lived with bipolar, a primary school friend’s mom’s long-time challenges of living with bipolar. People who were diagnosed with or lived with someone living with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder and the all too common depression and bipolar disorders all came out of the woodwork.

The lesson for me: my mind health is journey. The experience of living with a bipolar type II diagnosis can shift from feeling broken, alone, worthless and pitiful to rising to periods of unstoppable invincibility and ecstasy before finding a balance, leaving me feeling strong, resilient and balanced. Accept the journey for how it shows up. Find your lesson. Live your life to the fullest.

Why? Because your mind health matters.

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Originally published: March 30, 2016
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