Something I am Proud Of:

I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is difficult to acknowledge the parts of me that I am proud of. Before, I found pride and value in a lot of external things: my wardrobe, my relationships with others, how I presented on social media. In the process, I neglected myself. Doing the internal work, combating intrusive thoughts and learning how to love myself for who I am is a process that I’m still undergoing. I used to be ashamed of the way that I processed my emotions—and at times, I still am. As a man, I was often ridiculed for showing my “big” feelings—and being gay, I was often written off as being “over-dramatic”, which contributed to my bipolar disorder going undiagnosed for years. Episode after episode, I watched my life, my friendships and my relationships fall apart. It felt like I hit a new rock bottom each and every time, and for a while, guilt and shame ruled my life.

Yet, here I am, still kicking. I battled several depressive episodes (unmedicated) throughout my undergraduate career and still graduated Summa Cum Laude. I endured a three-month long rapid cycle towards the end of my Master’s Program and still obtained a 4.0 GPA. I have lived with bipolar and effectively taught middle school resource classes in three (about to be four) major U.S. cities. Despite my brain and the world telling me that I couldn’t, I did—and that is something that I’m learning to celebrate.

Message for Newly Diagnosed:

First off, you are so divinely loved and supported. You must understand this to be true. Second, your diagnosis may come with a myriad of emotions: relief, fear, confusion. All are valid and can co-exist simultaneously. Sit in those feelings, process them and let them pass.

Finally, never apologize for being symptomatic. Your symptoms are not a reflection of your character, nor are you selfish for taking time to manage and take care of yourself. Talk to your loved ones about how they can support you. It takes a village, and the real ones will stick by your side, at baseline and through all the ups and downs that life will throw at you.

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