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Words of Encouragement to Jesse Jackson Jr., or To Anyone Struggling With a Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Reading of your recent diagnosis, I was struck by how my story parallels yours in many ways. From the outside, we both appeared to have it all: successful careers, happy marriages, and hopes and dreams for the future. Behind the façade, however, few people grasped how profoundly depressed we felt much of the time. Everyone was also misled by our periods of extreme energy and creativity in which we could be depended upon to knock almost any project out of the park. I hate how bipolar disorder strikes in the prime of life, tries to rob us of many experiences and successes, and carries such a stigma. It disheartens me to hear reports that are presumptuous enough to say that you will never be well enough to work again. According to NAMI, mental illness affects one in four Americans each year, yet many people are unaware that due to advances in medication and treatment, bipolar disorder and most serious mental illness is manageable and that recovery is possible! 

A long grieving process often follows the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which many around you won’t understand. Some days you will struggle to make lemonade from the seemingly endless supply of lemons life now seems to provide. Recovery will not be easy, but I guarantee you, it is worth it. Your goals and dreams will change, but fight to emerge from this experience with a renewed sense of purpose. What you now discover to be your calling may be completely different from what you originally planned to accomplish. Take this opportunity to free yourself from people and things that drain your energy and redefine yourself. Finally, never allow anyone to dismiss you or limit what you can accomplish. The media may say that you aren’t capable of rebuilding your life, and the reactions of some friends, colleagues, and loved ones may disappoint, but I am proof that you can lead a productive life. I refuse to let bipolar disorder take the best of me.

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