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I was walking home from school with an indescribable, overwhelmingly beautiful feeling of peace and joy. My senses were heightened: I could see tiny drops of water resting on some leaves as if my eyes had some kind of zoom feature. The sun was shining on my face while a cold breeze literally sang to me. I could have sworn I was able to taste each and every one of the different shades of green on the trees.
Life was absolutely perfect and I had no idea why. I could feel everything. I could be anything.
But I knew this wouldn’t last. By then I was perfectly aware of how the cycle worked: the higher I flew, the harder the fall would be. I used to hate myself for this. My inability to find balance, not even when it came to my own brain, made me feel like a failure.
My temporary “high on life” made it incredibly difficult for me to concentrate on the smallest tasks.
My depressive moods made jumping in front of a car seem like a reasonable decision.
Getting treatment for a mental illness is a lot like an abstract painting: if you’re standing too close, you’ll probably see nothing but a confusing mess.
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When you take a few steps back you realize it’s still messy, it’s still confusing, but it somehow makes sense. Not in a romanticized way, certainly, but more as an opportunity for growth and progress.
In other words, we might not feel so different from who we were when we started.
Not only are we standing too close to the issue, we’re right in the middle of it. Day by day things seem to stay the same, but suddenly we look back at the beginning and realize just how far we have come and how much everything has changed.
It helps to think of recovery as a series of small battles rather than one big war against an undefeatable enemy. My first victory was admitting to myself I needed help. The second was actually picking up the phone and dialing my psychiatrist’s number. The rest didn’t come easily at all, but I had taken the first steps, which was a very big deal.
By this time I had already been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I was finally in remission from my Eating Disorders and exercise addiction. I did not want another affliction, along with more super expensive meds, to be added to my list.
We all know how funny life can be, so with my third victory–total honesty with my doctor and loved ones–came my new diagnosis, Bipolar II Disorder. It also came with more meds. I laughed. I literally laughed at the irony, in front of my psychiatrist and everything (she joined me with a nervous laugh).
When I got home, I cried like a baby. I gave myself one day to mope around in my pajamas and feel miserable but decided as soon as I woke up the next day I would pull myself together and move on. I thought, “If I was able to beat Anorexia and eat an entire pint of ice cream all by myself, I can totally handle this.”
I was right. Of course to this day I keep tripping and falling on my face, but every bruise makes me stronger; every scar means I’m wiser. The wounds kept coming, but so did the victories.
It took a while for me to accept my new meds and be consistent. I have to admit they do help. The best part was developing some sort of self-awareness when it came to my episodes. I can see them coming, and even though I cannot stop them completely, I can prevent them from taking total control over me.
My depressive episodes no longer lead to any form of self-destructive decisions.
I’ve managed to tame my impulses during hypomania. Sometimes, this just means counting to ten, taking deep breaths, or waiting a few hours to see if they go away.
I am slowly–very, very slowly–learning how to separate my own true emotions from bipolar symptoms. “What am I feeling?” “Why do I feel the need to react in a certain way?” “Where do these thoughts come from?”
Nevertheless, I am also learning to accept myself with this disorder.
I am removing the weight of the stigma from my shoulders, along with any feelings of self-judgment or self-hate. I find compassion much more effective.
I have Bipolar Disorder. Yes, it might make me a bit unpredictable at times, but it does not make me weak or less capable of anything. I am smart, rational, and tough. Oh, and if you happen to see me throw a table out the window, I probably just stubbed my toe on it. No big deal.
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