I used to be very secretive about my mental health issues and hid them from pretty much everyone. But once I finally realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of, I started opening up to people around me and I’ve never felt so liberated and humbled by the reactions of not only friends and family but complete strangers too.
I’m bipolar and I’m not hiding it anymore. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II last year and that’s the origin of my mental health problems. I knew something wasn’t right for a long time but I was in denial and thought I could deal with it myself. Turns out I couldn’t, and having a breakdown was actually the best thing that could have happened.
Being honest with my friends and family wasn’t really my choice but I’m glad I made it anyway. Nobody held a gun to my head or anything, but my psychiatrist told me I really should let my nearest and dearest know. Had he not told me it would help to be honest and really push the idea, I probably would never have told anyone and I wouldn’t feel as optimistic about my mental health as I do today.
I went so far as to write a book about it. Not plugging or anything, but I did write a short book about my mental health journey called The Bipolarfly Effect and now it’s available to the whole world. It was a pretty daunting and daring thing to do and I had some serious reservations about it. Would people now just think I was insane? Would anyone even care? Turns out they do (care, I mean, not think I’m insane). I’m now public to the whole world about my Bipolar disorder and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.
So many people took the time to write to me. I’m still overwhelmed by the responses I’ve received about my memoir. People from all walks of life, close friends, strangers, and people from the past have all gotten in contact to share with me their own mental health issues and how I helped them to understand the disorder better. Time is precious, so I really feel humbled by the fact that so many people have taken the time out of their day to write to me.
The shame and embarrassment I felt were all my own invention. My biggest fear about going public with my mental health was judgment. I worried that people would now think I was a different person and treat me differently because they knew about the innermost workings of my brain. But it was all in my own head. Nobody has judged me and I no longer feel any shame at all. It’s a chemical imbalance that’s out of my control and the only responses I’ve received are ones of positivity, commending me on being so brave and sharing my journey so others can learn from it and potentially not feel so alone.
Admittedly, my parents took it really hard. While the majority of the responses were amazing, it was very hard for my parents to accept and read about my disorder. I’d shared snippets of my issues with mental health with them but always played it down so they wouldn’t worry. For the first time, they learned the raw truth of my suicidal thoughts dating back to when I was just a child. Naturally, they blamed themselves for not noticing and I felt terrible about it. At one point, my mom told me she would never be able to forgive herself and I wished I’d never written the book in the first place.
Ultimately, the journey has been very therapeutic for me. It took a while for my parents to accept that I needed to come out and be honest with the world, but they did come around eventually. Of course they were extremely proud of me above everything else and realized that it was important for me to put it all down in print. It’s even brought us closer, which feels amazing.
It feels like a weight has been lifted. I really feel a hundred tons lighter and like I’ve achieved something. Before I went public, I would have to lie to people on my depressed days and say I felt sick or had other commitments when really I just couldn’t get out of bed. I would be consumed with guilt from lying to my friends, which only made the situation worse. Now I’m being honest, it makes the hard days just that little bit easier.
I hope others will be inspired to do the same. Mental health awareness is slowly but surely becoming more important and I’ve learned that other people in my life that I would never have imagined also suffer from some sort of mental health problem. Through going public, I hope others will find the courage to do the same, to seek help from professionals if needed or simply just to be honest with themselves.
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