Author: Christina Chambers
As we celebrate the approaching World Bipolar Day, March’s question is: “what makes you bipolar brave?” I think earlier on in my journey I would have had a hard time answering this question because I carried a lot of shame and a sense of personal fault for my disorder following my diagnosis. I would have believed that, while I considered others living with the disorder to be incredibly brave, nothing made me bipolar brave. I’m happy to say that today I have a multitude of potential answers. It’s tough to narrow it down!
My work as a Peer Support Worker is the first thing that popped into mind when considering what makes me bipolar brave. This is an addiction and mental health role that involves utilizing personal experience to support others with their wellness journeys. It has been a really big step for me to enter a career where I talk publicly about my mental health on a daily basis. I’ve discussed my bipolar disorder with program participants, individuals and large groups, with people I have never met, and with health care clinicians.
Historically, more often than not, I’ve hidden my disorder from employers. At times, I’ve been open and discriminated against for it. When disclosure of my bipolar disorder has been received positively, I still felt the need to hide its effects. Talking openly about my recovery in my work has certainly taken a leap of courage.
However, as I continued to ponder, the element that makes me most bipolar brave became crystal clear. I think the boldest acts of bravery for me are each time I reach out and talk to my trusted supports. This is especially challenging and crucially important when I’m struggling the most. Time and time again bipolar disorder has sneakily tried to convince me it doesn’t exist. As Charles Baudelaire said, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” To be clear, I don’t mean to make bipolar disorder out to be a devil. Over the years I have even found silver linings of this condition. That being said, bipolar disorder can have detrimental effects. Bipolar thoughts can be very convincing. This disorder has whispered in my ear that I don’t need medication. It has lied and told me I am all alone and it would be best if I kept my thoughts to myself. At times, when psychosis has set in, it has yelled loudly and even convinced me others will be harmed somehow if I talk about it. To me, it often feels like bipolar disorder wants to be kept quiet because that’s how its destructive parts can take over and become all of someone. Maintaining myself in these moments is my greatest recovery aspiration.
For that reason, no matter how tough it may be, I talk about how I am doing with at least one person each and every day. I fight to overcome those thoughts, to get through fear or shame, and I speak openly from a place of complete honesty. I talk about the dark thoughts, the ones that don’t make sense, the spontaneously wild ideas, my intense feelings, and everything in between. When it comes to talking about the toughest stuff I talk to my partner, a couple close friends, my therapist, my doctor, or my local help-line. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do, but it has gotten easier with practice. Ultimately, it’s what makes me Bipolar Brave too.