Sharing my story has always been part of my journey to mental health. Stigma is perpetuated by silence and fear of the unknown. Bipolar disorder remains unknown if we hide away our experiences instead of talking about them. And staying silent perpetuates the myth that we have something to be ashamed about.
Ever since I began writing for bphope I have experienced an outpouring of connection and support. Sure, there will always be people who disagree with me, but for the most part it has been a positive experience. Sometimes though, we who are brave enough to share our story receive harsh criticism and judgment. This is almost to be expected from people who do not have bipolar disorder. They don’t understand and I can’t expect them to. But when the judgment comes from within our own tribe, I have to wonder if sharing my story is worth it.
Despite some negative experiences, I have decided that sharing my story will always be a worthwhile endeavor. If only so that one person out there comes across it and realizes they are not alone. Bipolar disorder has contributed to my tumultuous past, but I refuse to let it compromise my future. And while bipolar disorder has contributed to my past, I have learned to take full responsibility for my actions.
People will always want to judge, and are often quick to point out flaws in others before looking honestly at themselves. I have learned to correct myself before I judge others. Often the thing we despise in someone else is the very thing we ourselves need to work on. That is why writing and speaking about my experiences has been such a powerful component of maintaining my mental health. It allows me to look honestly at myself and to grapple with my own demons.
This is why I urge others to share their story and connect with like-minded people. Bringing your mistakes out in the open sheds light on them and helps to clear away the cobwebs. Sharing your story connects you with people who understand, and opens up further discussion.
Stigma feeds on silence. It is the demon that comes to sit on your chest while you sleep, stifling your voice and haunting your dreams. When you break the silence you shine the bright light of truth, under which stigma cannot survive. So I urge you to share your story, and to be kind when someone else is brave enough to share theirs.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community
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April lived undiagnosed with bipolar disorder for ten years until 2013. As a teenager she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and bulimia. Finally, after a long mania ending in psychosis, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar I. This eventually led her to learn as much as she could about her diagnosis. She became an advocate for bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. April is a resource person for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, and serves as an eating disorder recovery mentor through MentorConnect-ed.org. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Non-profit Management from DePaul University in Chicago, IL and works as a Peer Counselor at a residential mental health facility. April lives in New York where she also works on her personal blog and side project Redefining Stigma in Mental Illness at https://ridingingodssidecar.wordpress.com/