I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in October 2008. I didn’t know I was bipolar. I didn’t know about mania or mixed episodes. I only knew my old friend depression. But a smart psychiatrist asked the right questions and got the right answer — bipolar 1. I believe my suicide attempt was the result of a mixed episode. I know now that I was manic before taking all those pills and know that I was very sad before taking all those pills. I was both. Alternately. At once. I can’t remember it clearly.
I already had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and OCD so adding this new label was like adding another weight onto my already sore shoulders. I honestly thought my life was over. I thought that I would be incapable of living the life I had before, and to be honest once again, I was right. I don’t, I can’t, live the life I once did, but that’s okay. I have a great new reality.
I was very ashamed, like bipolar disorder was a dirty secret and I could only share it with my family and a few friends. I thought if people knew they would judge me. I thought their opinion of me would change. I thought that I was less than I was.
Isn’t that sad? I thought that because I had a major mental illness, and a severe case, that I was worth less than I had been before I got sick. I thought my value rested on my accolades and my work. I thought I was good enough because I was a Style Editor. I thought I was good enough because I had lived on my own for the better part of a decade. So who was I when those things were taken away, and worse, taken away because of my own mind?
I didn’t admit to my diagnosis on my personal blog, ElainaJ.com, until 3 years had passed since my diagnosis. I hinted about being sick and about doctors and about hospital stays, but I never came out and said “mental illness” or “bipolar disorder.” But when I did, in a blog post titled “Be Brave, ElainaJ,” it was one of the most freeing things I have ever done. It was like riding in a convertible on a warm summer night with the top down and the music up, hair whipping in my face sticking to my cherry lipgloss. It was like diving off a cliff into clear Caribbean waters. I understand the term “coming out of the closet” and that is exactly what it felt like, like I opened the door and there were all my friends and family waiting to surprise me with the best party I’d ever been to.
It took a long time to gather my courage to admit to others that I was beautifully bipolar. For me, it took years. Looking back I wish I hadn’t worried so much about it. I wish I could have found my brave sooner. I am thankful that I can speak up now, that I can share my courage with you, because you are brave too, even if you don’t know it yet.
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