I’ve struggled is a statement we have all used or heard someone use at some time. I didn’t know I was struggling until my kids were in elementary school. Sounds funny but it’s because I was so quick at learning ways to cover up and mask my emotions even at young age. I had an imaginary friend with me starting at age 4 for protection. She made my world were struggling was not a thing. When I was 14 I spent 18 months in a youth drug and alcohol treatment facility. Honesty was not my policy. I graduated from high school. I had my first daughter at 19, second at 23. I was using drugs and alcohol by this time to lesson the struggle. I didn’t identify the struggle. I truly thought this was the world and how things were. I didn’t identify with sadness or joy. I just was getting high or drunk making sure the girls and the house were running, but they weren’t. I had no clue what was happening with me or the world. When I was 28. I met people who had something that I didn’t have. I noticed joy and happiness. I became profoundly aware that my behavior and emotions did not match those of others. I became concerned and others expressed their concerns. I turned to my medical providers who diagnosed me with bipolar. I was horrified. I remember the first time leaving the pharmacy with the bag of medication. I was entering my 30’s with a mental illness, for sure a death sentence. For years I battled myself, not excepting the diagnosis. I was noncompliant with medication, suicidal, hospitalized, and went through ECT treatments for years. I went through therapists and therapies. I disliked all that they said and wanted me to do. I disliked myself. However, during this time I was able to graduate college, sum cum laude, maintain a teaching job, keep a marriage, raise my girls, and be a part in several capacities of an international motorcycle club. What changed me to end the struggle? I read this quote “ Strength is what we gain is the madness we survive.” and I turned 50, I realized I no longer wanted to be waking up not equipped to deal with what I would wake up to. I needed to have an adequate tool box and build on it, practice using those tools to face what bipolar will through at me. So, I did. I also, created a positive foundation of safe friends and family and to this day I still build on it. Continuing to do maintenance so it is strong in the face of storms. I developed a medication routine that assures I take the right medication at the right time. I see my doctor, always as prescribed. I keep a journal that if I write anything I write 3 things I’m thankful for. All of this and so much more I keep and analyze for its effectiveness.l strong and far more stable then I ever have. Even if an episode creeps up I’m prepared because I’ve practiced for the moment. I might not be successful at shortening or ending the episodes but I am able to call for help, adjust medications, practice self care and many other things. I’ve got strength!!!