March 30th is #WorldBipolarDay

Today is #WorldBipolarDay. #What’sYourStory?

After my disease developed when I was 12 years old, back when no one talked about mental health, I went through many traumatic years before being diagnosed. I was labeled as a “drama queen”, having “middle child syndrome” and an all around problem child. Which I think is pretty insulting. I went from being a goofy fun social butterfly and then when the episodes began at twelve years old, I turned into a completely different creature. And no one helped.

The episodes began young; mania, depression, rage, self mutilation, suicide attempts. Everything happened so fast. I was always confused, I never knew who I was. I didn’t get well enough to develop a personality until I was in my early twenties. The depressive episodes brought me face to face with death starting at fourteen. The manic episodes progressively got worse and extremely dangerous as I got older.

To cope with my episodes and make sense of my mood swings I formed different personalities leading to an even harder struggle once I began getting treatment. A disease that could have been better managed had anyone helped me or anyone noticed, turned into something even more frightening as I developed schizophrenic tendencies.

I sought help after my last suicide attempt three years ago. The first doctor I met with asked the normal question “Why are you seeing me today?” After I finally realized there was something wrong I laid out my life for him. I don’t know what he was expecting but he was shocked. “And you’ve never seen a doctor?” Nope. “Rachael, I cannot believe you are still alive right now.” And that was the first time, after a decade, did anyone make me feel like all of this wasn’t my fault. I’ve seen a handful of doctors since then. I’ve gotten so much better. Once you know the problem you can confront and treat it. I finally have a support system and broken down a lot of walls between me and other people who don’t understand mental illness. 

The relationship with my husband has improved because he’s the first one who can see if I’m spiraling. The relationship with my family is better because now they understand I wasn’t evil or a bad kid that hated them, I was very sick and was too young and mentally unstable to comprehend that. I am not guilty anymore. I will not be ashamed of my past, I do not deserve that weight. I blame ignorance and a society that chose to keep it’s mouth shut as opposed to addressing our people’s mental health problems because they see them as an excuse.

I’ll never be normal. I haven’t had a day that wasn’t a struggle since I was a child, but I’ve made peace with that now. I’ve made peace with that because through the suffering I found a purpose. A purpose to talk about things people don’t want to talk about. To hold the hands of people who no one else wants to touch. To give advice to those who have mentally ill loved ones and need to know there is hope for a great life together. I’m supposed to turn my life into a lesson and that’s what I’m doing. Bipolar Disorder is not an excuse, it’s an explanation.