The Truth About Living Openly with Bipolar Disorder

10 Jul

LivingWithBipolarDisorderMe & my little firecracker on July 4th

I will never regret my decision to write openly about living with bipolar disorder. Never. There is something to be said for reaching a point in your life when you take an important leap. One you can tell your kids about someday. When I realized it hurt too much to keep it bottled up inside was the point when I realized that I wanted people to know I’m not perfect but I still love my life just the way it is, mental illness and all.

I love the moments right before I fall asleep. My mind replays my day’s highlights, as if to ingrain the smile or giggle or kiss in a corner of my brain, so that I won’t ever forget it. Tucked away safe so that I can unwrap it again when I need that memory.

Lying still, listening to the steady rhythm of the one I love beside me, I think about the day that awaits me when the sun rises.  I soak up all the sleep I can because chances are, I was up too late writing the night before. I no longer set an alarm; the sweet voices of my kids will wake me when the sunlight pours into their rooms.

The truth is, even though I will never regret my decision to tell the world about the chemical imbalance in my brain, I still wonder if I chose the right time in my life to open my heart.

Living openly with a mental illness means you’ll always wonder if the world is judging you. You’ll wonder if you will ever be looked over for a job you applied to or a promotion you earned because of the fact the employer knows you have bipolar disorder. You might wonder if you will ever work a regular job again now that you’ve written about the darkest and also the most manic times of your life.

These are the things I’ve been worrying about lately.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that even though I know my husband loves me with his entire heart, someday he might not because my illness might get in the way one time too many. My entire world would come crumbling down around me.

And if my world did come crashing down, if I was left to manage on my own, how would I do that? Again, the future employment picture bubbles to the surface. How would I support myself financially when my loving husband has been the main provider for the last six years? And would my symptoms suddenly break through the surface again, like a volcano that has been dormant but now is ready to explode?

These are the big, scary thoughts that sometimes make me wonder if I did the right thing.

Because the truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that once you’re diagnosed, it’s yours to live with for the rest of your life. It’s yours to manage, to curse, to medicate, to appreciate. There is no erasing a mental health condition. Therein lies both the beauty and the beast.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that it’s shown me how far I’ve come as a person. How I’m no longer afraid of showing my true colors. I love my brain and all the creativity it has allowed me to express. Even though it may break down from time to time, I love this piece of me which has shown me what I’m capable of. And that is overcoming my fears and insecurities.

For this I say, I’m glad I’ve decided to be open about the fact that I have bipolar disorder.

No looking back. There’s only the beautiful mystery of what lies ahead.


19 Responses to “The Truth About Living Openly with Bipolar Disorder”

  1. Lisbeth Coiman July 15, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Jennifer, I hear your pain. I think you made the right decision coming out and you shouldn’t fear unemployment as a consequence. Remember there is ADA act that protects you. I live openly with mental illness (I don’t write a blog about it, but I am pretty much out -one of my employers is a FB friend of mine). When I work, I always make sure somebody at work knows about it, just in case I need help at one point. I also struggle with the fact that I pretty much depend on my husband. When things get sour, as things tend to get from time to time in couples, the weight of not being able to provide for myself is sometimes too heavy to carry. To overcome that feeling, I always keep myself employed, it doesn’t matter if it is only ten hours a week. Because most of my financial needs are covered, I use that extra money to help pay off my mortgage and contribute to an IRA account. These significant changes with my small contribution have helped me a great deal in feeling that I also have something to give, that ours is not an unbalanced relationship.

  2. Lance July 12, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Hi Jenn

    I started to write you a message on Facebook and I didn’t want to freak you out. About two months ago, my diagnosis changed from anxiety/depression to full on bi polar I after a horrid manic episode. It was frightening.

    anyway, thank you for writing this, being around and being on the Twitter with me. I have a lot of questions but don’t know how to ask them. again, just thanks a lot for being open.

    • BipolarMomLife July 13, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Lance,

      Don’t worry, you wouldn’t freak me out. Thank you for commenting. I’m glad to hear that your diagnosis has been corrected and I hope that things are going better. Mania can definitely be very scary.

      Hang in there. I know how hard it is at first. The good news is that it can and will get better if you work hard at recovery. I know you will.


  3. Katy July 12, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    I just love that you shared this. You are living a powerful testimony, and only when we show the “worst” of us can people see how great the triumphs are. I am so proud of you for choosing to be open and so strong. Erasing the stigma of mental illness is a priceless endeavor.

    I understand your concerns about sharing those parts of yourself and wondering how that might come back later as a negative thing. I have major depressive disorder, and I’ve often wondered the same thing: if I share too much, what might a future employer think when they look at my profile?

    But then I think of the people who can be helped and encouraged by our stories. The people who might be saved some of the pain I faced because others, like you, were brave enough to speak out and show mental illness is not something be ashamed of.

    Thank you for telling your story. This was beautiful.

    • BipolarMomLife July 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Katy. I agree with you completely, which is why I continue to tell my story. We’re helping others and that is why I write and share.

  4. Rebecca J. July 11, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Thank you for your honest share and all the comments :) Secrets keep us sick – this I learned the hard way. I must share something with all of you. Diagnosed with bipolar II in 2006, I had more depression than mania and learned to love the great energy that came with the manic episodes (completely ignoring the wreckage!). My meds have been working superbly for so long that I began to think maybe I had been misdiagnosed and I really [only!] suffer from PTSD. Wake up call! My neurologist recently prescribed oral steroids to break a 10-day migraine which set off the mania. The good news is my house is now sparkling clean after 10 hours of non-stop crazy cleaning. The bad news is I re-injured my spine – neck and low back – am in great pain waiting to see my surgeon next week, and likely will need major surgery to repair this damage. Lesson learned: I cannot afford complacency when it comes to this disease. I didn’t even see it coming.

    Speaking from the perspective of the mother of 2 daughters in their early 20’s, they were in high school when I got my diagnosis. I think they were relieved to have an explanation for my erratic behavior. I am also able to watch them for signs and educate them about the disease and its heredity components. I do believe my father was undiagnosed bipolar. It has brought us closer and has given them so much empathy for the mentally ill. We are people dealing with a disease – we are not the disease.

    I wasted so much of my life fretting about what if’s just like you mention and guess what? I missed out on all the present moments along the way. I find that when I am catastrophizing my future, I am allowing my EGO to take over, that is, I am Edging God Out. Some powerful force watched over me through all the near death times. He didn’t bring me this far just to drop me on my head??

    • BipolarMomLife July 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      Rebecca, thank you so much for commenting and sharing parts of your story. You’ve been through so much, but I can tell through your words that it’s made you stronger. It’s wonderful that you have open lines of communication with your daughters. I also agree with you on living in the moment. I work on that every day.

  5. bklynboy59 July 11, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    Dear Bipolar mom do not fear that you are judged. You are being true to yourself. You are to be appauled for being open about it. I have written a few entries of my own about bipolar and my experiences with my son who is now 30 years old. But make no mistake I have seen things first hand that frieghten me about the depths of this illness, however despite the dark alleys my son and I have traveled I love him dearly and I am and will always be his biggest fan. Don’t fear about your husband leaving you. Yes it will be challenginig at times and there will be times when he will be pushed to the limit as I was . When you know what you are dealing with, then at least it makes the journey easier to take. For years we didn’t know what the issues were especially through his teen years. Only after one violet confrontation which ended up having the police called and having my son taken to the hospital did things become clearer. Dealing with bipolar isn’t much different than having diabetes you deal with it every day for life. but, at least you know what you are dealing with and you know how to deal with it and why you are dealing with it. I’m sorry for such a long comment but this is near and dear to me. Stay strong, you are an inspiration to others.

    • BipolarMomLife July 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks so much, Jerry. I agree – it’s something I work on every day and I’m proud to be an inspiration to others. Thank you for being a loyal reader.

      • bklynboy59 July 16, 2013 at 12:26 am #

        No Problem hang in there !!!!

  6. July 10, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    This makes so much sense. So proud of you!

  7. Cristi @ Motherhood Unadorned July 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I’m so glad you live openly as I do. There is power and strength in sharing, and the fact is, it’s so important to fight to stigma, even if some who are less than educated about mental illness judge us. There will always be the judgers no matter what, but there are many more we are helping :)

    • BipolarMomLife July 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

      I agree, Cristi. And just as I put up this post, I had a new reader email me to say thank you for my honesty and it again showed me how important it is that I’m telling my story.

  8. Masala Chica July 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Honey – you show me every day how big your brave is. That’s all I needed to say. Thank you for your honesty. There is never a right time for anything that is hard. You are doing hard beautifully.

    • BipolarMomLife July 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

      Thank you so much, Kiran. Your kind words mean so much to me. xoxo

  9. itwillneverhappen2me July 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Beautifully said. You are living your Brave!!
    Love the picture of you and baby girl.


    • BipolarMomLife July 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks so much, Nat! We’re heading out to dinner now – making the most of a quiet, kid-free house for the next couple of days. :)

      • itwillneverhappen2me July 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

        Yay you!! Can’t wait to meet everyone next week. Have a wonderful night!

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