I want you to know there will be times in your life when you will struggle with a mental illness called bipolar disorder. I know it sounds complicated, and the truth is, it is. It is complex because we are talking about your brain. However, if you learn everything you can about how to manage your symptoms and find a good treatment plan, you will do great.
I want you to know that fighting your way back to health will be the hardest thing you ever do. There is such a stigma with mental illness that a lot of people are not going to understand. You will find out who your real friends are and who you can rely on.
More than anything, be true to yourself. You don’t have to publicize that you live with bipolar disorder unless you want to. But you MUST be honest with yourself about your illness. Some people can survive and thrive without medications, but you are not one of those people. In fact, most people with bipolar disorder need medications, and there is no shame in that.
Whatever you do, don’t deny that there is a problem. It will set you back in life to pretend this serious illness will magically disappear on its own. When is the last time you ever heard of a brain tumor disappearing without intervention? As much as you want it, you can’t wish this away. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get well and live your life.
You are going to need help along the way. Doctors and therapists can be tremendous support on the road to wellness. Just remember that they are also human and they aren’t perfect. They will make mistakes sometimes. You have to find the right fit for you; never be afraid to ask questions or even disagree with providers. The best ones will welcome an open dialogue.
In life we don’t get to choose what we get and what we don’t. You are going to feel frustrated at times, and you may have moments when you think, “what’s the point?” I want you to hold on to hope and never give up trying.
There will be times when you reflect back and thank your mother for giving you the gift of faith. You may not be overtly assertive about your relationship with God, but you will get down on your knees and pray for God to get you through the tough times. You will have some very difficult times and will need your faith to make it through.
You will get a good handle on bipolar disorder. Once you do, the sky is the limit – so don’t ever let anyone tell you to keep your dreams small. You are good at dreaming big, and I want you to keep doing that for as long as you live.
Finally, take one day at a time. Everything you need will be provided for you; maybe not what you want, but what you need. When you figure all of this out, don’t forget to reach back and help other people. Because at the end of the day that’s what life is all about.
Your older self
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