Something I am Proud Of:
I was diagnosed with Bipolar I at age 21 after my first manic episode. After my diagnosis, I went 6 years without a psychiatrist as I was lost in the waitlist system. I eventually had my second manic episode, which was more severe. In my episode, I attempted suicide after months of feeling unheard and unsupported by the medical system. I learned from that experience that medical practitioners have difficulty understanding my mental state as I am high functioning and I learned to mask how I am feeling. I realized in therapy that I adopted this behaviour to protect myself from others. Gaining self awareness for how I present to others in hypomania and learning how to advocate for myself was necessary. I am now connected to medical practitioners that make me feel supported and heard. I have experienced moments of shame, guilt, regret, anger, and hopelessness. I had to learn to forgive myself, have compassion for others, accept the life I have been given, and move forward. Bipolar Disorder does not define me. I am not my diagnosis, and I am not my Bipolar moods. I radically love and accept who I am, regardless of my flaws and my past. I am proud of myself for prioritizing my needs and staying on my healing journey. I am proud of myself for building and maintaining healthy friendships with supportive people. I am also proud of myself for believing in me and what I am capable of. I am still a work in progress, and I am at peace with that.
Advice for Newly Diagnosed:
Always be kind and gentle with yourself. You are deserving of compassion. If you have a set back in your mental health, it is okay. You are never alone in what you experience. If you are considered high functioning, know that you are not alone. If you are not considered high functioning, know that you are trying your best and you are not alone either. It is important for you to educate yourself about Bipolar Disorder and understand your symptoms and behaviours. This will help you to navigate coping strategies to minimize symptoms and prevent negative behaviours. Stay focused on the positives, feed your mind with as much positivity as possible. This will help prevent you from ruminating in negative thoughts and emotions that keep you in problematic moods and behaviours. Find success stories that can inspire you to keep going. They can help you learn how to adopt healthy self care routines, maintain relationships, and maintain a job. You need people to support you. Find support systems and techniques that work for you. Something can work for someone else, and it may not work for you. Both things can be true, and that is okay. It is possible to live a relatively “normal” life. Don’t worry about timelines. Whatever you achieve is an accomplishment. Celebrate the small wins. It is possible to attain all you desire in life. Hold on to hope. When life gets hard, it is okay to feel your feelings. But do not stay there. Keep going. As Morgan Harper Nichols said, “As long as you’re breathing, there is more ahead for you.” (@morganharpernichols on Instagram)