Dear family, friends, acquaintances and strangers,
This is a difficult subject for me to talk about but I feel that no good will ever come of people like me hiding behind the cloaks of the biases and stigmas that society has created, so I think it’s time I lend my voice to a movement that, behind closed doors, I am truly behind.
Hardly any of you will know this, but today (March 30th) is World Bipolar Day. According to WorldBipolarDay.org, this day is aimed to “bring world awareness to bipolar conditions and to eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration, the goal of WBD is to bring the world population information about bipolar conditions that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the condition.”
"It is celebrated on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having a bipolar condition." In fact, many of the most creative minds in the world suffered from the condition including Stephen Fry, Sylvia Plath, Demi Lovato, Ernest Hemingway, Ada Lovelace, Marilyn Monroe, Beethoven and well, many many more.
I was 11 the first time I thought about taking my own life. At one point in my life, I anticipated I would not see my 16th, 18th, 21st or 25th birthday. I thought I would fall so far into the darkness that I would kill myself. My own personal journey with this illness and diagnosis is long and complex. There are good days, weeks and months and very bad days, weeks and months.There are days where the electricity in my body makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck and there are days when it’s really hard to get out of bed.
Over the years I have kept my mouth shut while people have made jokes about being “bipolar” or “manic depressive” without understanding the implications of their words. I have sat through doctors telling me there's nothing wrong with me or that my depression was caused by my “gayness” (yes, really) and I have fought medication in the fear of “losing myself.”
When I started 2018, I made a promise that I would truly be myself and chase my dreams. I have finally got power over alcohol, after 13 years of smoking I have (MOSTLY) walked away from using them as a crutch for my crippling anxiety and I am pursuing my dream to write a book. I realized that wanting to be a writer who breaks the stigma against people with mental illnesses is pretty hypocritical if I am currently afraid to talk about my own mental illness.
Am I afraid? Sure as shit, I am terrified that people will put me in a box. That they will say “that explains a lot” or that they will call me crazy behind my back. I am afraid that being open about this disability will cost me employment opportunities in the future - like it will change how good I am at my job. But if we don’t speak openly about the fact that mental disorders affect 1 in 4 people, then there will be another lost 15 year old who won’t get help for her depression for 10 years and many more people who are afraid to speak out.
Bipolar is not a dirty word. It is not contagious. It does not make me less of a person just because my brain chemistry is different than yours. It does not define me. If you think you know what it is because of TV and movies who portray it with flat, one-sided characters, I urge you to do a little research right now because enough is enough.
Please see: How Mental Illness is Misrepresented in the Media
I am not afraid to own it. I will no longer be ashamed of my illness and I hope that if you are living with a bipolar condition that you are happy to say “Fuck your stigma”
Thanks for listening. Thank you for loving and supporting me for all these years and I hope you can support me as some new exciting things are right around the corner. But for now I’m going to be #BipolarStrong
To learn more, visit National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.com); National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.gov); www.MakeItOk.org.