Most people who know me know that I am bipolar. When it comes up in conversation, I don’t mind sharing. I’m happy to answer questions, and I am always willing to be an advocate. Not much of my private life is actually private. On my blog I admit to having bipolar, OCD, and EDNOS. I confess to self-harm. My two in-patient hospitalizations are forever recorded on the Internet.
Despite this claim of transparency, I have a very difficult time showing that I actively struggle with these issues. I would like to present myself as a successful portrait of mental illness. The major mood swings, the cutting, the starving and purging – all elements of my past. I am “stable.” Just look at me! I go to class, I have straight As, I am involved in activities. I exert a lot of effort trying to appear well-adjusted. I’ve been working towards being on the cover of Time, plastered on the front a box of cereal, and featured on 60 Minutes with the claim that I “conquered” mental illness.
Unfortunately, my type-A personality has set an impossible goal. I have a disability, and sometimes that means I am disabled. I am not stable right now. I have been struggling with my mood swings again. I have been having severe physical reactions to stress. But, I am learning, this does not detract from my message of advocacy. Part of representing the many individuals with mental illness is acknowledging the suffering, the heartbreak, and the difficulties that are a part of daily life.
Stability is not a magic status that occurs once you have logged a certain number of hours. Healing is a process. That process includes ups and downs. There was at least a solid month when I felt very good, but now I do not feel very good. In fact, I feel pretty bad. My blog is a place where I can acknowledge the good and the bad. It is not my job to always be a beacon of hope.
I am a human with unfortunate brain chemistry. I can live a meaningful life, I can be an advocate, and I can be a writer, but I will have days that will be lost to my illness. These lost days do not detract from my message; they are part of my message. Despite my struggles, aches, and losses, my net effect is positive. My failures amplify my triumphs, just as the rain makes the rainbow that much more beautiful. Bipolar has taught me that nothing is all good or all bad, but everything is temporary. Glean what you can from this moment, because you do not know what the next moment will bring.
So let’s share these moments: the manic, the hypomanic, the stable, the depressed, the devastating, and all of the shades in between. Let’s share the milestones and mistakes. We can celebrate and mourn simultaneously. It is most important that we create a community of acceptance for all states of our illness, including our wellness.
In the comments, I invite you to share one aspect of your life that is going well and one that is challenging you. For example, I am celebrating six months of being self-harm free, but I am struggling with exercising.