Thanks very much to reader Gina for this thoughtful contribution for Mental Health Awareness Week.
I bring awareness...
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was 19 years old. From that point it took me about 3 years to accept my disorder and get my illness under some kind of “control.” But it’s taken me about 7 years total to deal with the fact that I have this diagnosis. I wouldn’t say I’m completely over the diagnosis because I still have days when I think I feel a bit ‘mental’ and I tend to ask those around me- do I seem a bit crazy to you today?
I do feel like I’m getting to a point where I am realising, that experiencing a degree of unwellness from time to time, is in fact ok- maybe even a little healthy if it means I deal with some emotional stuff that I need to process. Keeping well is a work in progress and I measure my success one day at a time. I celebrate the days when I achieve things. Even if it’s a small thing- like getting the dishes done. I’m also learning that the only person that can hold me back is me- that if I show everyone around me what I girl like me, with my diagnosis can do, then I am capable of inspiration.
I spent 3 years in and out of the hospital system. I had to do that to learn that I didn’t want to be in the hospital system anymore. I tried a range of medications, until I found the right ones. I had to go through some horrible side effects- to learn about the drugs that were right for me. I had to argue with my family, to learn where the boundaries were, to test their love, and to find out that yes in fact, they love me a lot, all in their own special ways.
I am learning that friendship is hard work. And that, when I thought I didn’t have a lot of friends, the opposite, is in fact true.
I still don’t know if wearing my illness on my sleeve helps or hinders. Some people don’t think it’s necessary for you to talk about it a lot and would rather not hear a lot about it. Others want to talk to you incessantly about it while they are testing their own theories about themselves and their wellness.
At some point I would like to work with teenagers as they go through the process of receiving their first diagnosis. Our mental health system still needs a lot of work. And a lot of money. And I would like to bring some awareness to that - in this - Mental Health Awareness Week.