by Leanora K. Giannini
I would have to say that my bipolar was first diagnosed when I was 20 years old. Although I had symptoms many of my previous doctors and therapists had insisted it was depression. My most recent therapist was able to diagnose me. At last I had the answers I was looking for. For many years (since the age of 9) I had gone through ups and downs. In school I would do really well and through my dark days I would not bother to show up to class. Because of my diagnosis have had to make some changes that were stressful. I have had to exercise more to keep the weight off because my meds have made me gain weight. An exercise regimen and a strict adherence to the medication directions is so important. I do not drink anymore, nor do I smoke anymore. Honestly, those lifestyle changes have made me a healthier and happier person.
Definitely my support network would be my family. I don't know what I would have done if my mother hadn't been there for me. My 5 year old nephew and sister in law also provide a very important system for me. Some of my positive influences include my mother, my orchestral conductor and the rest of my family. I believe that stability and balance are probably two of the most difficult things to accomplish during a manic or depressive episode. It is during these times that I journal, listen to music, talk to family members, exercise or meditate. It is so easy to become overwhelmed during these times, and I have learned that balancing yourself emotionally and spiritually are essential to finding peace.
I hear a lot about how family members are upset and frustrated when their loved ones "blow up," or go "insane" (as my mom puts it).
However, to those caregivers out there remember the most important thing that you can do is JUST LISTEN. When I would have panic attacks or feel suicidal the best therapy out there for me was a best friend or my mother.
The most important message that I would want the world to know and understand about people with bipolar disorder is we are not "crazy," as some might call us. I would like to think of us as a community searching for understanding in this world. It's important for the country to understand, particularly right now, is to understand that those who suffer with mental illness are not defined by their disease. Dramatic, empathetic and just of the few adjectives that I would use to describe myself. Bipolar has given me a sense of empathy that I think others may lack. I definitely applaud Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones for coming out and letting the world know that "we" can be successful.
Lastly, what inspires me to be the best is my mom. I suppose that sounds a bit cliché, but her hard work and determination have given me a greater appreciation for her. She was a single mother with four children and managed to finish school as a R.N. before I was 15 years old. She has taken me to all of my psychiatric appointments. She was there when I was hospitalized for cutting and never once judged me for any of my actions. It has been her strength that has kept me going for all these years. She is the reason why I am here and writing my story.