When I was diagnosed with Bipolar I nearly four years ago, I was faced with so many feelings. My first reaction was one of relief. Finally, I thought, there was an answer, a reason I had struggled so much. Having a diagnosis made it possible to take action to get better and take control of my life. But then another reaction surfaced – denial. After doing lots of research into what it meant to have this diagnosis, and particularly the many grim statistics about recovery, I became angry and discouraged. Eventually it just became easier to deny it.
Thankfully though, my denial did not last long. Instead of burying my head in the sand or assuming the role of victim, I decided that I would take control through advocating for myself and others. I started writing in my personal blog about mental illness and I took to social media to find the wonderful tribe of people who were like me. I eventually started writing for bpHope, and I was even appointed to the board of directors for my community’s Mental Health Association.
All of these things are great, and they not only help me process my disorder, but help others as well through sharing experiences and advice. However, I eventually realized that I was identifying with this label so much that it seemed to be all that I was. I was no longer April – the dancer, the writer, the musician, etc. Instead I became April, the girl with bipolar disorder. At least, that’s how I saw myself for awhile, and because that’s all I ever talked about and wrote about, I imagine that others must have seen me that way as well.
Mental health advocacy is wonderful. It is important, difficult work that can really only be done effectively by those who have been in the trenches – the people who have suffered through mental illness or who have helped someone come out of it. If you are an advocate – for yourself or for others – thank you. Never stop doing this important work.
But I want to add something else. If you have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, don’t get so caught up in it that it starts to define you. You were a complex person before your diagnosis, and you will continue to be afterwards. You are so much more than what this diagnosis even encompasses. Last year I wrote about embracing your “designer label”. I still stand by this. But I’ve also realized and remembered that I am so much more than that.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is to get off social media for awhile and go back to the things you enjoyed as a child. Re-read a favorite book, get outside for some fresh air, listen to your favorite music or even just sit in peaceful silence, unfettered by people’s opinions, “likes”, and comments. Connect with people in real life, even if it’s just calling them on the phone (not texting!) or writing and mailing a letter. Find a way to remind yourself of who you really are.
Whatever you choose to do, be kind to yourself and know that you are more than your bipolar diagnosis. What are your dreams, your goals, your accomplishments? I’d love to see the comment section filled with what makes each and every one of you unique.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community