Well this is it – my inaugural post. Here goes…
I picture myself standing at the front of the room in some dusty church basement, feeling encircled by trusted friends and loved ones. Everyone waits patiently as I step toward the microphone. I clear my throat and call forth the courage I know that I have, but that seems to need coaxing at this moment.
“Hi. My name is Sarah.” I pause, searching the audience for my sister. Our eyes meet and she nudges me with a simple nod of her head. I finish. “And I have bipolar disorder.”
Relief floods my senses at my public declaration. For years it has been so much easier to hide and deny. But today the time has come to be authentic and true to me. No more hiding.
I am well aware of the typical associations with ‘bipolar disorder’. I can imagine what might run through your head in response to these two simple words. As someone who deals daily with this illness I have probably thought the very same things about myself.
But if there is one thing that I have learned over the years – it is that it is so important to be gentle with ourselves. And the best place to cultivate this is with our thoughts.
Perhaps the most powerful words we use are “I am”. These two words start statements that we make about ourselves, publicly and privately. And these two words form the foundation for what we not only say about ourselves, but what we believe.
This is why you won’t catch me saying “I am bipolar”. I live with bipolar disorder. I manage my symptoms of bipolar. I have bipolar mood swings. But I am not bipolar. I am so much more.
My name is Sarah. I have bipolar disorder, and:
- I am not my diagnosis.
- I am deeply in love with my husband.
- I am ‘colourful’ not ‘crazy’.
- I am unique – there is only one of me.
- I am a loving mother and I work hard at it every day.
- I am familiar with the inside of a psychiatric ward.
- I am not my reputation.
- I am bliss when I make beautiful art.
- I am living a balanced and healthy life.
- I am a loyal friend.
- I am immensely proud of my family.
- I am a much nicer person in the afternoon when the drugs have worn off.
- I am a soul that delights in a moment spent writing.
- I am sure that now I am ‘out’ of the bipolar closet people will look at me differently.
And I am challenged by the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder. I am determined show others that our illness does not dictate who we are.
Thanks for starting this wild ride with me. I am certain it will be good a one.
A challenge for you – What kind of ‘I am’ statements do you make about yourself?
I love your attitude. Keep fighting the stigma and keep defining yourself in your own terms!
Thanks so much! End stigma – that’s my motivation.
My co-author and I are right with you in that. Though we experience mental illness from the other side – being married to men who fight depression, anxiety, and panic disorder – we’ve suffered from the stigma of mental illness as well. So now we write and talk about it as much as we can. Thinking of you!
That’s wonderful that you share your perspective as well. Sometimes I think we don’t hear enough from people who love someone with a mental illness. And I think we need to get better at supporting these caregivers too. There is mounting support for people with mental illness, but less support for their loved ones out there. Keep up the great work!
Welcome! I loved reading this as it shows you have a definite idea of who you really are. Many others cannot say that about themselves. I look forward to reading more : )
Thanks for your support and thanks for reading!
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Sarah you’re story was so uplifting, well-written, creative and…brought me to tears. Because I don’t have any “I Am” statements. I have “I Was” and “I Could Have Been” but I’m working on that..oh I really am. That’s partly why my therapist suggested I try blogging. But thank you for being an inspiration. I had some bracelets made with the phrase Break The Stigma on them..got them in the mail today! So excited! The little rubber ones like everyone does..Leo I’m hoping to spread some awareness that way. Of course all the proceeds go back to my local NAMI group, but it has to start with us..you’re so right. Thanks!
I enjoy your blog posts as well. It’s great to hear about how you are finding positive and inspiring ways to end the stigma of mental illness. Thanks for your support – thanks for reading!
Sorry, not sure about the typo….
Sarah – I really enjoyed reading your blog. I haven’t had to deal with any sort of mental illness in my family until very recently and as someone who has never had to deal with mental illness personally, it is difficult to know what to say/difficult to understand what people with mental illness are going through. Thank you for shedding some light, and I look forward to gaining more insight/becoming more enlightened through your blog posts.
Thanks for your very kind words. When one in five Canadians deal with mental illness we all seem to get to experience some level of it at one point or another. I feel so privileged if anything I write can be helpful or insightful. Thanks for reading!
Applause to you, Sarah! I just recently started my blog and did so with intentional anonymity. I so long to put my face and name with my stories, but am fearful of jeopardizing my career. I hate stigma. I try to fight it when I can, but in more subtle ways. Bravo to you for taking this step forward. While I may remain in the shadows of backstage for a while, I am glad to be part of this community and help shed light on who we are as people who happen to have bipolar d/o. I may also do an “I am” post, inspired by your words. Thank you for stepping into the spotlight! Looking forward to your posts.
Thanks so much! And thank you for reading. Congratulations on your new blog. It takes courage to put yourself out there, regardless of whether or not you include your name and face. I hope you find writing about your experiences helpful and healing, and know that when you share of yourself, you are helping others as well.
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