Author: Alexis Crase
Nobody ever said having a mental illness is easy. But when people talk about mental health, they talk about just that – mental health. They focus on self-care and exclude the real-life aspects of having a mental illness like bipolar disorder, such as the crippling debt, the debilitating symptoms, and the fear and shame. The truth is, mental health is a lifelong battle for people with a mental illness, and I wish people understood that, and I wish people understood what it’s like living with bipolar disorder.
Before I was diagnosed at age 27, I experienced intense mood swings – one week I would be a fantastically confident social butterfly and the next week I would be massively insecure and unable to handle everyday situations without dangerous overreactions. But because I was high functioning, I didn’t seek help. I was able to hold down a job, I had a master’s degree, and I had ample friends and a blossoming social life. It wasn’t until I attempted suicide that red flags were raised and I was slapped with the label of bipolar.
Now I know why I have such intense mood swings, and I have the coping skills and medication to deal with it. However, my symptoms aren’t really much different, aside from being less severe. I still experience the highs, with their extreme boosts in confidence, and the lows, with their crippling anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Even with medication, coping skills, and ample self-care, bipolar disorder is always going to be there. Even though I can recognize it now, and know that the highs and lows are only temporary, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re there. Although most of us can lead normal lives even with bipolar disorder, I want people to know its can be difficult having a mental illness. Self-care, meditation, and daily affirmations are great for mental health, but they don’t cancel out mental illness completely. Having a mental illness is an ongoing, daily battle.