I’ve always been extremely hard on myself. I think those of us who struggle with depression frequently are. I know that I have a tendency to compare myself to others who don’t have to deal with mental illness. Are they more successful than I am? Do they have a better house? A great job? I’m realistic enough to know that everyone has burdens to carry. Yet it’s hard for me to be optimistic about my life when I can barely get out of bed, while my friends all seem to be leading fabulous lives.
I’ve worked very hard over the last few years to come to the realization that I am not a failure. The thought creeps into my brain often, but I’m constantly battling it. Suffering through more than 20 years of bipolar disorder and a suicide attempt doesn’t improve my feelings about myself. It’s extremely difficult to turn those thoughts around and tell yourself, other people wouldn’t have survived what you’ve been through.
I’ve often struggled with finding my true purpose. It wasn’t until I truly hit rock bottom that I started to become more self-aware. In June of 2013, I succumbed to the symptoms of my illness. I firmly believed that I was not capable of doing anything worthwhile in this lifetime. I decided that my family and friends would be better off without me around and I attempted suicide. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face while they worked on me in the ER. Even thinking about it now makes me extremely emotional. I’m incredibly lucky that I wasn’t successful that day. It has allowed me to put my life into the proper perspective.
With a great deal of time to reflect, I came to the realization that I had a voice. With that voice, I was going to try to change the way people perceive mental illness. I would begin a journey of trying to end the stigma.
It started with my blog. Once I made it public, it became an important platform. I had no idea that I could reach so many with my words. I was thrilled to learn that there were people out there who felt I was helping them! I started to consider the possibility of my blog becoming a book. I taught myself some of the ins and outs of social media. The mental health community on Twitter has also been extremely supportive. Every day, more people would come forward to tell me that my words resonated with them. I was starting to see the future. I was put here on this Earth to be an advocate for the mentally ill.
I won’t lie, there have been days when I lost my path. If someone reacted negatively to me or my story, it hit me hard. I once received a nasty, threatening email claiming that I was a liar and that I would never help anyone. I was called a selfish narcissist. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my words would be turned against me like that. I’m certainly not sharing my story to look good! I feel like it’s quite the contrary. However, being on the receiving end of something like that hit me hard.
The effects lasted for days. I truly think having bipolar disorder is a big part of that. We feel things much deeper. It’s especially hard when the story you’re telling is about your life, and someone says terrible things about it. It feels like a personal attack. Nothing worth doing is easy, so I stayed the course.
It is comforting for me to know that most of my critics have more than likely never had to fight a battle inside their own head every single day. I’m exhausted from that fight, but I’m still moving forward. Finding my purpose in life took a lot longer than I would have expected, but I try not to live in the past.
Am I still hard on myself? Do I still compare myself to others? At times. I think I probably always will. Low self-esteem in certainly a symptom of bipolar disorder. It’s something that I deal with every time I look in the mirror… every time I write. Is it good enough? Am I good enough? One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is about being enough. I am enough has become my mantra.
I’m thankful to have finally found my voice, and I’m using it to affect change. We have a lot of work to do, but I firmly believe we can accomplish our goals of putting an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness. I will keep talking. I will keep telling my story. If I help even a handful of people, it will have been worth it.