Just 8 months ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 at the age of 36.
Since the age of 12, I have lived my life in a vacuum of feeling shame, guilt, depression, and periods where I felt I could touch the sky.
I’ve been excruciatingly ripped apart for having postpartum depression while also unknowingly battling Bipolar.
I’ve been told by extended family that mental illness does not exist, and that people should just “get happy.”
I’ve been ridiculed for sharing my severe depression, and I’ve lived in a dark cave fighting every day with suicidal ideation.
I cannot begin to explain the power stigma can hold on the mentally ill. It’s like being tied up with hands behind your back, mouth taped shut, a hood placed over your head. Add in some black noise and you’ve got it pinned. You can’t think, you can’t speak, you can’t hear, and you can’t reach out for support.
I am on the road to recovery now with the help of my psychologist, my psychiatrist, medication, and an amazing support network. I have learned that I am not my diagnosis. I’m still learning, with the help of my psychologist, that I am not damaged. My psychiatrist helps me realize that taking medication doesn’t mean I have given up. The word "hope" has been one that I can both use and see confidently. Every day is still a challenge and I still have a hard time talking to anyone who doesn't experience mental illness on any level. My family is aware and has been both supportive and willing to learn more. I still experience the ache of shame some mornings, but it’s diminishing.
To those fighting mental illness,
Don’t stop fighting, don’t stop fighting, don’t stop fighting.
To those adding to the stigma,
I truly feel sorry for you, and I hope you never experience one day with a taste of mental illness.
To those supporting us with mental illness,
Thank you. We cannot thank you enough. You are our hope in the hopeless.
I am not bipolar. I have bipolar. I am not my diagnosis.
I don’t need your sympathy. I need your advocacy.
Written by Megan James