You might wonder why someone who hasn't been diagnosed as Bipolar would have such a keen interest in contributing to this website. I don't want the words ‘stigma’ and ‘empowerment’ to lose their meaning and there's more, so much more. I have struggled nearly all my life by being labeled as many things such as a slut, quick to anger, moody, vulnerable, dramatic, unpredictable to name a few. In my late teens it was enough to convince me that something had to be wrong, my heart was defective, my mind overactive, but I had enough self-love somewhere in there that I eventually realized I was in a constant state of learning and coping. And so I tried and tried again and I grew. I still fell down, but I grew.
When I was in my early twenties I moved to Montreal, Quebec, a time in my life where I was facing many critical choices that would affect the outcome of what kind of adult I would be. I needed a job and I needed an apartment. I was on birth-control that made feel nuts and I lived only for the moment, but I suffered plenty with heart-ache and self-esteem. I had a bad attitude.
I met a boy and he was the most creative and gentle individual I had ever known. In the midst of our relationship he experienced a psychotic episode that landed him in the psych ward for nearly 2 months. He was admitted after a friend called the police, not sure what to do with the confusing delusions he was experiencing. I spent almost every day with him in there, playing card games with other French Canadian “crazies.” And watching him go up and down, and be in and out of touch, seemed sometimes so empty and others so full. He told me about all his business ideas, showed me all the interesting purchases he had made and involved me in all the rapid future plans he was making. I didn't realize how much of this was part of the disorder and was even excited to be included in his plans for the future.
We spent a few more months together after he was released from the hospital and was diagnosed as Bipolar. The road to acceptance was very rocky for him, but I supported it and learnt all I could about the disorder. His medications made him very numb and eventually his creativity subsided and he often missed his more excited self. He came to me frequently for help during his struggle to understand and I tried hard to be there, but felt my energy distinguished. Eventually I left Montreal and went to Europe. This was a common cycle for me: go somewhere, feel something and then run away.
At that time I still believed that a journey had to be physical. I have always been an avid writer and have been keeping journals since I was a kid. Writing has always been an escape and a healing art for me, a safe and secretive place to adjust my thinking and get it all down. Over the last few years I have been working on a Novel that is a fictionalized memoir based on my experience with this boy and my personal growth surrounding our relationship and the illness. I am 3/4 finished. It is a major goal of mine to complete it before my 32nd birthday.
Deciding on a career has been another stressor in my life, as I have many hobbies, I am weak with commitment and generally struggle with the expectation of working a nine to five forever. I am not a white picket fence, get married and have kids, cookie-cutter girl and sometimes I worry that makes me a failure. My relationships suffer because I either lose myself or falter. Currently I am in school taking a Social Service Worker Certification in order to fulfill my dreams of working with high risk female youth, encouraging them to get into sports or the arts and have healthy role models and better quality self-image.
Why do my short-comings matter? Because we're not all that different. None of us. As you are not defined by a diagnosis, nor am I defined by what I do. Courage is part of the recovery. And we all will be submersed in ongoing changes and challenges. Talking about your and my concerns around Mental Health can even the playing field and remind people that we are all learning and coping and growing. I can't walk down stairs without counting them. I can't use a pepper mill without counting how many twists I'll do, always landing on an uneven number. We all have idiosyncrasies that plague us, or make us who we are. If talking about Mental Illness can stomp out stigma, its worth the effort to not separate a diagnosis or a psychotic experience from any other kind of social anxiety or odd behavior. Life is going to be constant trials and tribulations.
We are human and getting modern on adjusting to the topic of mental Illness, is the frontier for being mentally WELL. End stigma.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your amazing website!