World Bipolar Day
I learned something new about March 30th. As well as being Vincent Van Gogh's birthday (who is quoted on my Meet Me page), it is World Bipolar Day.
The objective of the World Bipolar Day is to bring more of an education to the public about bipolar disorders and help reduce social stigma of the disorder. You can find more about the history of this initiative here.
I have been open about my struggles with Bipolar II disorder. I was diagnosed in May of 2017 after having a pretty serious mental breakdown. Most of my struggles stemmed from General Anxiety Disorder, but after purchasing a Fitbit in October of 2016, I was able to see the clear pattern in my activity and sleep. I would have periods of high energy and very little sleep and then a period of the reverse. My moods were never really affected other than being highly agitated during my manic episodes.
Getting the diagnosis was very confusing for me. On one hand, I was elated that I finally had some answers. Think: this. (By the way- best show ever.) Having a diagnosis gives a person hope that answers and help isn't far behind.
But then it hit me- this is kind of a big deal. I reverted back to my only knowledge of Bipolar Disorder, which stemmed from the show Shameless. Though somewhat accurate, it wasn't how I was. There is this stigma around being "Bipolar" that those with this disorder are crazy; that we belong in inpatient care; that we can't function properly; that we all need medicated. It's generally regarded that if you are diagnosed, it isn't something people want to hear about.
While some of these are true, some of the time- there are a lot of times this is not true. Granted I have been close to checking myself into a facility on more than one occasion, and before I really could understand the disorder, most days I was unable to function. At my most manic phase, I was eating around 800 calories a day and burning off around 3000. I wasn't overly elated, or devastatingly impulsive. It was manageable.
After speaking with my psychologist, family Dr, and psychiatrist, I decided against medicating my disorder. I wanted to learn to live with it. My husband was on board to help me fight through the lows, and be mindful through the highs. My biggest fear, was the side effects of the medication(s). Mood stabilizers tend to effect the same part of the brain where creativity lies. Being an artist, I was not willing to sacrifice something that gave me so much joy. Maybe a little selfish but I needed my art.
Looking at me from the outside, it's likely you couldn't tell. I honestly worried way too much on the label and stigma of the disorder at first. I was told "I hope you aren't planning on telling people", and I did keep it hidden for a little. I was nervous. Once I finally had my time to process my self and my labels- and really learn to love that dark side of me- I created my Mental Health Series. I took self portraits and talked about my path to being diagnosed and treated. It felt so freeing to be to be so open, real and honest about it.
At the same time, I watched some friends disappear and facebook likes drop. I was honestly a little taken aback, but at the same time, I watched people connect with me in a way I wasn't expecting. Old friends that also had been diagnosed were messaging me. Even people without the disorder were contacting me and talking with me. I was elated to have opened up this dialogue so many people were afraid to have.
So this May, for Mental Health Awareness month, I am releasing a Mental Health Series. This one focused on others. Telling their stories, struggles and triumphs. We all deserve to have our stories told. We deserve to rise above the stigmas.
So do me a favor today. Read up on Bipolar Disorder. Comment a fact you learned about the disorder, or even be brave enough to list a stigma you thought was true but you now know to be false.
Help me be an advocate for Mental Health. Let's debunk the stigma today.