I told people I’m bipolar on the first date:

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I told people I’m bipolar on the first date and I’d still be doing it if I was still dating.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t at first. I was terrified of what people would think of me, how it would effect my chances with someone. I wouldn’t tell a soul, I thought it was something that should be saved for a few months in, a “so I should probably tell you…” that comes when your ready to confess.

But why was I confessing? I wasn’t guilty of anything. I am bipolar, it’s part of me and it has been for a long time. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m annoyed by it a lot, but I’m not ashamed of it. It was out of my control and it made me stronger. It’s just there, a consistent part of me, and I share things about me when I’m trying to get to know someone, so why shouldn’t it be shared as well?

Sure, there is stigma, but there is stigma on all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about it. Maybe by hiding our disorders we’re adding to the stigma. We’re acting ashamed, so they must be shameful! But it isn’t. Bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, so I started to act like it.

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Positive things my bipolar disorder has gifted me with:

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I wrote a post a long while ago about how it’s okay for people to call mental illness a gift. It’s one of my favorite posts. I can’t decide if it’s the bipolar jokes or the fact that it’s about Van Gogh, but regardless, it still stands. It’s is okay for people to call their mental illness a gift the same way it’s okay for them to call it a curse. Both can be true.

I spend a lot of time writing about ways to function with mental illness and to overcome some of it’s trickier parts, but I wanted to make a post about the good things my mental illness has given me. So here’s a list of positives that have come from my bipolar disorder:

  • Creativity: Bipolar and creativity have long been linked. For most the creative streaks come during the manic phases, for me it seems like my creativity hardly sleeps. I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember, which is fitting because I got diagnosed at age six. Over half of my hobbies are creative ones and I fully thrive in the environment they create. I love my hobbies and I love this skill set. There is nothing I would trade for it.
  • Healthy coping mechanisms: A lot of people have unhealthy coping mechanisms, in fact, I don’t feel like it would be a stretch to say that most people do. It’s hard to function with a mental illness without learning coping mechanisms, and unhealthy ones just don’t make the cut, they end up making us feel worse. So to function, I’ve learned healthy coping mechanisms, ones that work and can aid my medication to the point where I can handle most everything thrown at me. It took a lot of work to get them, but I’m so happy I have them and am able to fall back on them whenever I need them, whether those needs are triggered by bipolar disorder or just everyday life.

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Your mental illness is not the most interesting thing about you.

20181018_110356.jpgYour mental illness is not the most interesting thing about you, and it shouldn’t be. If you find yourself reaching for your disorders name when trying to define yourself you might want to take a hard look at why you’re doing that. I’ve talked about labels before, and one of my bullet points was about mental illness, but I don’t think that covered the topic fully enough.

You are a complete person, full of dreams, hopes, fears, interests, and memories. A lot of them may be tied into your mental illness. That’s fair, especially if you’re currently fighting it with everything you have. Your mental illness is a part of you, and at times it may be a really big part of you, but it’s still not the most interesting thing about you.

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A letter to those struggling with their Bipolar Disorder:

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In a lot of cases depression can be cured, and I mean cured, marked done, filed away for good. Depression isn’t always chronic, sometimes it’s short lived. That’s pretty magical, but bipolar disorder is nothing like that.

It’s a disorder, a disease of the mind, if you will. It can be treated, but it can’t be cured. It is everlasting.

I don’t find that as scary as I once did.

At first it’s a terrifying thought. I have to live with these swings forever. There will never be a time when I’m not taking medication. This is something that will affect my life till I die.

Oh yeah, it sounds terrible when you focus on those aspects. It sounds a lot less frightening however when you talk about the different stages of living with a mental illness like bipolar disorder.

You start to realize that you will get better even if you are not cured. You’ll find your perfect cocktail of medications that keep you balanced and you’ll only have to go to the doctor every year or so. The upcoming days won’t be met with vicious swings, but little ones that warn you that you need to change something. You’ll learn what helps you outside of medication and you won’t rely on it as heavily as you did. You’ll move on with your life and bipolar will become a side note when you define yourself, because the characteristics will no longer define you.

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Removing the mental health stigma without ‘normalizing’ it:

I’ve thought two very contradicting thoughts lately. One being that mental illness is still stigmatized and people are still afraid to talk about it and the other being that we’re making mental illness too normal.

I think both are true.

Let me phrase this a different way, my bipolar, your anxiety disorder, or your best friends depression aren’t uncommon and they are definitely not something to be ashamed of. We need to be open when it comes to our illnesses and our health, so that we can get better and we won’t end up another suicide or addiction statistic. It is insanely important that we feel comfortable seeking help and speaking up about these things. Stigma still stands in many people’s way of achieving this.

To counter that stigma people have tried to talk more and more about mental health, but I feel like somewhere along the way we’ve run into something we weren’t planning on, and that’s people thinking their mental illness is normal, and therefore, unimportant, something they just have to make peace with.

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The most helpful thing you can do for a loved one with bipolar:

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I was talking to a friend the other day about how lucky I was that my boyfriend is just as good as my parents at doing the one thing most important to my mental health: Keeping me in check.

There are lists upon lists out there about things you can do for a loved one suffering from Bipolar disorder. Most of them are really good tips, but the most important one for me normally doesn’t show up on those lists, because it’s not always pleasant, and newly diagnosed people sometimes don’t react to it well and therefore it doesn’t always seem productive.

You see, I’m aware of my big mood swings when they happen. It’s hard not to notice when you nose dive or are suddenly ten times more active than you normally are. It’s those small ones that get me, the ones that I think are triggered by daily events because I can’t see it as clearly as someone watching from the outside. I don’t always consider all the facts, because the change felt natural from the inside, and after all, I still got everything done that I needed to do.

Those smaller mood swings are important though, if your swinging that much it needs to be addressed and your medications need to be adjusted. They might not feel like a big deal on the inside, but they can be long term, and they can also be a big deal for those around you. And those around you are normally the ones who notice them first.

I used the words “keeping me in check” at the top of this post, but that sounds harsher than it really is. It’s a gentle nudge, a firm yet kind acknowledgement by your loved ones that something is off.

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Why it’s okay for people to call mental disorders gifts:

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There was a post going around Tumblr and Facebook recently about Vincent Van Gogh and his mental illness. The post was saying that we shouldn’t say that his artistic mind was a gift from his mental illness. It’s argument was that nothing from a disabling illness (that lead to his death) was a gift, and that he would have completely thrown away his art if he could have a cure for his illness.

Van Gogh is one of my favorites, not only because he is a great artist, but because he was bipolar, just like I am. I wrote a huge research project on him while I was in college, and I got invested in who he was as a person. And I have a problem with posts like these.

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