Five years and five months ago I heard the word “bipolar” for the very first time. Honestly, I did not know what it meant nor what it would come to mean to me and my life. I learned pretty quickly that it meant I was very sick and that I was self-medicating an illness I had no idea I had and that unless I sought and accepted treatment, my life would not be as happy and productive as I had planned or dreamt it would be. I also learned very quickly that bipolar disorder was not an “acceptable” illness to have … and soon found myself alone, deserted by my family, my friends, and my own husband … the one who had vowed to stay with me “in sickness and in health.” This was mostly due to lack of knowledge and education on all our parts, not to mention the stigma that is attached to mental illness. I am not here to give an excuse because I have no excuses, but when everyone you know and love deserts you … it makes it very difficult to get well or seek proper treatment. In fact, I only got sicker. So sick that I nearly lost my life the summer of 2009. That was when I made the decision that this was NOT how my story was going to end.
The first thing that I had to do was to admit to myself that I was sick. It was the biggest positive step I have ever taken in my life. You can tell someone that they need help. But until they tell themselves that they need help, they will not get better. I had to learn that the hard way, but I can guarantee you it’s a lesson I will never forget. In fact, it paves the way for better decision making … something that’s not always easy when you are in a bipolar state of mind.
Second, I had to shout a four letter word. Shouting it from not only my mouth, but from my heart and from my soul … digging down deep until I believed that it existed. HOPE! I have to admit, that finding hope was harder than admitting that I was sick! I found hope or it found me, but I can say I will NEVER let it go!
My journey to becoming well again, coping and living with bipolar, and once again becoming a successful professional business woman and most importantly an awesome mom has not been easy. In my future posts I will share stories, lessons and tools that helped me to succeed and become well and to stay well. Now I advocate mental health wellness and will spend my life volunteering my time to help anyone anywhere dealing with mental illness themselves or family members or friends who need hope, knowledge or anything to help them in their journey to wellness, understanding and happiness. Hopefully, something I have to share will help someone else somewhere along their journey. One thing I know for sure – it truly is possible to recover and live a happy meaningful productive life despite ANY illness that life throws in our path!
Until next time-
Andrea Piekarski-Susalla J