Author: Sharnisha Stokes
#BipolarTogether is a hashtag that’s been needed and will continue to be. To provide hope in times where none can be found. Resources when coping mechanisms that are detrimental have been exhausted. Education for those caring for a person with bipolar disorder who needs guidance. Encouragement to survive the day and inspiration to live for the next. With approximately 2.3 million Americans on this planet included under the same umbrella of mental illness, I’m confident each of us has felt isolated; even in a room full of people. I’ve sunken further into isolation simply accepting that realization
For those of us navigating the highs and lows of this mental illness, isolation can almost always be the catalyst for depression. Ironically, I want to be alone while simultaneously needing a hug or to hear someone say “I’m here with you and for you.” Mania can scare people because of risky behavior or the way I handle being triggered. What goes up must come down with that every decline into depression I may realize the damage done in retrospect. Hindsight is always 20/20. Even with an apology, it is rare someone wants to keep a person in their life who hurt them and in an unreasonable amount of time expects them to have recovered from the blow. Then proceeds to want them as a fitness partner at 2 am to exercise and wake up at 5:30 to watch the sun come up.
Time after time, when the inevitable mood swings shift, my brain dumps tons of reasons why I am not loved, reasons why nobody wants to deal with me… The list of self-doubt could be infinite. If I may offer any advice, it would be do not allow your brain to trick you during this shift. Within the isolation of depression, your brain is “comfortable” because we’ve been here before. Since our brains are comfortable they will do what it’s always done. “to keep us safe” it will feed every insecurity, illogical and unrealistic thought until suicidal ideation starts to join the party. That’s an even darker and deeper hole to climb out of.
My first step in figuratively and physically climbing out of each mood swing is #BipolarTogether. Meaning, my mom has and still rides the rollercoaster with me no matter how fast or dangerous. Together, after every time I’ve unintentionally pushed her not to. My sister cries for me because we have protected each other our entire lives and she can’t protect me from this. Even through his hard exterior, I’ve seen the fear of losing me in my dad’s eyes as they involuntarily admitted me to a psychiatric facility. The same fear that has him riding by my home simply to check on my children and me, present day. The beauty of the unconditional love and compassion my children have for a mother that cannot always be rainbows and smiles. #BipolarTogether stretches far beyond loved ones or “family.”
That’s the silver lining in having this mental illness in 2022 (if there is one to be found). Showing gratitude has been beneficial in my goal to manage this disorder versus letting it manage me. So, Gratefully we live in a day and age where therapy, advice, encouragement, support…essentially, a community available locally and virtually, 24/7 is an option.
I’m 33 years old and have been diagnosed since my mid-twenties. I would have paid good money for a sense of community and support during the darker days of accepting my diagnosis. Honestly, I would have donated an organ to know that we…we, being loved ones, therapists, friends, support groups, entire organizations such as the International Bipolar disorder foundation were fighting the same fight, the same stigmas, misrepresentation, and unjust government policies and making efforts to raise awareness to such a debilitating disorder to many under the bipolar disorder umbrella. Annually on March 30th, World Bipolar Day is internationally recognized due to the works of art from the late Vincent Van Gogh. It is my hope that as the theme for March 30th will inevitably change, we always stand #BipolarTogether.