I thought about appropriate ways to mark today, and considered the following:
Driving to DC and back within 8 hours (6 hours of travel, 2 frantic hours of sightseeing)
Crying inconsolably for 5 hours
Using enough curse words to win a Profanity Prize
Maxing out my credit card by buying 4 more pairs of (very) expensive heels
Picking fights with Steve, the kids, and any friend unlucky enough to be in my path
But then I remembered—my bipolar disorder is under control now, and has been for years. The behaviors described above were hallmarks of my long-past daily rollercoaster of wild mood swings: episodes of mania followed immediately by bottomless “blues.”
There are millions of us worldwide who live with bipolar disorder. The lucky ones (like me) get the help they need, good therapy, effective meds. The unlucky ones (including those who do not have health insurance or any other means to be treated) keep suffering. To add to the problems, many people refuse to admit they have a mental illness at all, because of fear. Fear of losing loved ones, losing jobs. Fear of the criticism and prejudice of a society that still stigmatizes and demonizes people with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, PTSD. No wonder they are afraid! Wouldn’t you be?
During the 12 years since my diagnosis, I have searched for a reason why I was afflicted. I’ve concluded that this was not a God-sent punishment for my sins; it just “happened,” as it does to so many. I couldn’t control getting sick. What I CAN control is how I live my life in recovery. And that is where I find the silver lining.
As much as possible, I am using my voice as a writer, speaker and church worker, to be a mental health advocate. I have written and spoken extensively about my experience, and encouraged others to do the same. And they have, which is such a good and healthy thing for them, and for the world at large. Mental illness should be treated like a physical ailment. We wouldn’t shame someone with heart disease or cancer; we shouldn’t shame someone whose struggles have to do with their brain chemistry.
I am thrilled to be co-producing the Philly premiere of This is My Brave, a show that shines a spotlight on mental illness. We have cast the show with 15 very brave individuals who are willing to share their powerful stories with an audience. I have high hopes that we will reach many people, and spread awareness and acceptance. Mental illness touches EVERY life. Treatment needs to be more available and affordable. And the stigma must be shattered.
|Two of my favorite reasons for living!|
So on this World Bipolar Day, I stand with my bipolar brothers and sisters. I pray for healing for them. I thank God every day to be in a better place, and remember that my job, now and for the rest of my life, is to reach out a hand of love and support to others.