I don't talk about my mental health challenges very much...but it's not just my story! I write to share mine. What are some of yours?
To qualify for Disability (SSDI) every few years it's actually my psychiatrist who signs me off. My being Bipolar is what continues to make me eligible. Living as someone who is Bipolar has affected my regular day to day, and week to week functioning and sometimes in the past it has made it very hard to keep a full time job. When I worked with seniors a few years ago I found things had shifted and my stress and anxiety levels were almost unbearable. Trying to lead the events felt like torture many of the times as I prepared to lead the group. This happened more and more often as I've gotten older. I have lost jobs and closed business ventures over the years due to physical or mental health challenges...BUT … my rising up to stay alive by getting (relatively) balanced mentally/emotionally, dealing w/ being HIV+ (37 years) and staying sober (10.5 years) has taken decades of dealing w/ many difficulties, much worry and fear, lack of confidence, very low lows and very high highs and sometimes deep pain & suffering.
I don’t talk, or even write, about my mental health challenges very much. I often judge myself very harshly and beat myself up over things I cannot control. I was born with a chemical imbalance and have struggled with being Bipolar since High School; I don’t talk about being hospitalized during manic episodes or being suicidally depressed; I don’t talk about my successful battles to overcome these past struggles, and working my whole life to get my meds balanced; I don’t talk about my successes because of doing this...not having had a episode and not having been really deeply depressed for decades; I don’t talk about how challenging it was to tweak and adjust my Bipolar medicine cocktail; and I don't talk about living through this and how treating one side can make the other much more pronounced and can make it hard to function.
They are just things I’ve not felt comfortable sharing in the past. I’ve feared judgement and dismissal… but the person who has been judging me the most is ME. Sometimes it’s very hard to be proud and confident. These days sometimes I still struggle with some depressive cycling that can make life difficult and can seem overwhelming. But I’m here today living a full, productive, enjoyable life because of my successes along this path and these days I’m making a choice to be more transparent…to tell my story…partially because it’s NOT JUST MY STORY!
An estimated 1 in 4 adults in America ages 18+ suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder…But it’s when we rise up and conquer them that we can benefit from the growth that has happened along the way. I write to support and help others who are struggling and I hope by sharing about my experiences people with similar paths will feel less alone.
Living with a disability is only part of my story. I also succeed in spite of these challenges. I am just one of millions of success stories of those of us who found a way to survive, to fight, to brave dealing with our challenges and to accomplish more than we first thought was possible. I have a disability but it doesn’t define who I am.
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