#BipolarBrave, Today and Always

Author: Violette Kay

This World Bipolar Day, I look back at all the ways bipolar disorder has impacted my life, and the variety of these experiences is so vast I don’t know whether I should mourn or celebrate. Bipolar disorder has ruined my life a million times over, but it also got me places… Well, “places”. It’s relative. But I’ve been stable for almost a year, so since then I get to choose I’m celebrating! I’m choosing to celebrate everything that makes me #bipolarbrave.

I remember counting down the days until my last therapy appointment, sweet freedom so close I could taste it. I felt so powerful when I told my therapist I would be leaving, or rather “saving these 6 months of DBT for later” (The mental healthcare system is broken, I’ll take what I can.) And I meant it too: I fully intend on going back someday. I’m saving those sessions for when I need them more. Being responsible with my treatment makes me #bipolarbrave.

I love feeling powerful. It is my favorite feeling in the world. I first felt it while hypomanic, and for a long time I found it hard to comply with treatment because I thought that by giving up my hypomanic episodes, I would also necessarily be giving up that feeling, that power. I love Hypomanic Me. I think she’s really cool. You might have found her in the kitchen at 5:00 am baking for her roommates (surely winging it without a measuring cup). Or at a theatre festival wearing all the hats: playwright, performer, media rep and volunteer extraordinaire. Or perhaps in a stairwell, covered in drywall, making “improvements” to her (rented) apartment. But lately she can’t be found in any of those places. Medications do their job of keeping her in check. I miss her every day, but I have to remember that she causes hurt too; always a thousand steps ahead, angry at those who cannot keep up, restless, frantic, and all alone. It gets lonely up there. Choosing stability makes me #bipolarbrave.

I remember sitting in the audience at an awards ceremony, smiling and applauding as a stranger accepted an award they got for replacing me in a show I unfortunately had to drop out of at a time when I was depressed and completely non-functional. Of all things I lost to mental illness, this one didn’t hurt the most, but it hurt differently. And yet I’m genuinely happy for everyone who worked on that show. As much as I wish I could have been a part of it, I’m relieved it all worked out for them. I’m relieved I didn’t cause them trouble by leaving. Recognizing my limits makes me #bipolarbrave.

Lately I read a little story about a grey-shelled snail that painstakingly dragged itself across the earth and made it to the top of a mountain without realizing it, and it suddenly dawned on me that I now have the one thing I’ve been dreaming about for years: a life that doesn’t revolve around my mental illness. It happened so gradually I didn’t even notice it. For years I felt like bipolar disorder was my whole identity, but it no longer takes up 100% of the space in my life, and I’ve been filling the free space with other things. I made it to the top of the mountain without realizing it.

I am #bipolarbrave when I go swimming without shorts on, my body on display, self-harm scars and all.

I am #bipolarbrave when I move small amounts of money around, inching my way towards that debt-free finish line.

I am #bipolarbrave when I take my medication in public instead of repeatedly snoozing my reminder alarm until I safely reach the privacy of my home.

I am #bipolarbrave when I personalize my workspace, when I buy tickets to an event that is three months from now, when I commit to a full year membership. I am #bipolarbrave when I act like I am in this life for the long haul.

I am #bipolarbrave today and always. Happy World Bipolar Day!

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