Finding Strength in my Story

By: Danielle Workman

The day I received my diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder, I felt so alone. I remember it vividly, because it was so incredibly painful. I didn’t know anyone with Bipolar Disorder I could talk to about it. The people I knew that had anxiety and depression were so trapped in their own issues, I didn’t want to burden them with mine.

Driving home in the dark that evening, I felt hopeless. Hot tears hit my cheeks, reminding me that I was still alive, but it hurt. My heart groaned in my chest, truly aching. My muscles trembled under the simple bodyweight of movements and I felt so drained. ‘I am alone.’ I kept thinking. ‘I have no one that gets this. Or can help me. I am alone.’

These thoughts went on for almost two years.

The day will never leave my memory. It was a terrible day. My depression and a crash from a long, beautiful bout of mania left me feeling angry. I was hostile, and no one deserved the hostility I was sharing. And I snapped because of it.

Yelling and pointing fingers, my coworkers and I snapped at each other. We shared our anger. We threw out wrong accusations. And in tears, I yelled, “I’m out.” And left for the day. I wasn’t sure if I even had a job when I got into the car to leave. Instead of pausing for a moment to collect my thoughts, I left in a hurry, my tires squealing as I hurried away.

That afternoon, I laid in bed. My tears from earlier had left dried streaks of smeared and ruined mascara and eyeliner on my cheeks and down my chin. My face was red and blotchy. I looked disgusting, but I also felt disgusting for the way I acted.

The thoughts of my family echoed through my mind as I laid there.

“Don’t air your own dirty laundry.” My grandmother said.

“You don’t have to tell the world everything.” My dad said.

“I don’t want others to be scared of you.” My mom said.

“People just don’t and won’t get it.” My aunt said.

“I don’t want you to feel worse than you already do.” My husband said.

But something inside of me was stirring. Something that was telling me I needed to talk about this. The screaming, the yelling, the wanting to hurt myself. None of that was really me, that was my diagnosis doing the talking. I wanted to let the world know. I had to let those in my world know, I needed to be able to tell the truth and not hide behind the stigma that I was an asshole just because my diagnosis is scary.

In the darkness of my room, I snapped a crappy selfie and took to Facebook to share my story and diagnosis. It was a sloppy post, full of improper sentences, typos and my traditional foul language. But I felt a sense of peace as I admired the post once it posted to the news feed. ‘There.’ I thought. ‘Its out there. Even if the world doesn’t get it, I tried.’

But then something strange happened. Likes flooded into the post, my phone buzzing incessantly. Comments followed suit. And I laid flat on my back, scared to read them. My phone lay on my stomach and buzzed every few seconds, causing a tickle to run along my abdomen. After about ten minutes, I picked it up, rolled over onto my stomach and began to read.

“You are so freaking brave.” One comment read. I felt my mouth open, I was unsure if it was a backhanded compliment or not.

“I admire you for telling your story.” Someone else added. But the comment that changed it all for me was the last comment on the post.

“Oh my god.” I started. “I am Bipolar too. I get it. All of it. Me too. Please don’t stop telling your story.”

Me too. Don’t stop telling your story.

Nearly falling out of bed I reached for a notebook and a pen. I scribbled the comment onto the first page and slid from my bed onto the floor, pressing my back against my mattress. I stared at the page, then back to my phone. It was like a lightbulb came on. I had to tell my story.

I had always kept a journal, and the day I got diagnosed I felt like it was going to be powerful to keep it. I began writing everything down, from my medications to my thoughts. Therapy homework to crazy manic ideas. At one point I even wrote down that we could use the journals as my autopsy, because I wrote down everything. But in that moment, I realized that my journals were my story, they were the things I was scared to share. But with the newfound support, I was able to share some of what I was going through with friends and family.

Things changed after that post. Friends weren’t scared to tell me their stories. Family asked me questions. I began a Facebook group for those with mental health issues so we could talk and share ideas. But it wasn’t enough.

My story was more than just a few Facebook posts. My story was enough to fill a novel, or two or three. So I did it, I turned my story into a book.

And something amazing happened again.

“Oh my god, me too.” A email read. “Thank you for writing this book. I no longer feel alone in my Bipolar Disorder.”

Share your story. Tell your tales. You can save your own life, and change how someone else lives with their diagnosis. Share your story. Talk about the struggles. Erase the stigma. Change the world.

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