The 2013 Peace Charlie Winning Essay

I would describe having bipolar disorder as a never-ending utopia and darkness all wrapped into one. How come? When I am manic, I feel energetic and on top of the world. I can feel every drop of blood rushing though my veins and all of my senses feel heightened. When my mood plummets and depression sets in, I have crying spells, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and suicidal thoughts. My symptoms also includes: racing thoughts, delusions of grandeur, paranoia, trouble concentrating, irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypersexuality and inappropriate spending.

I learned that I had type I bipolar disorder through a psychiatrist in 2007 after being misdiagnosed for 5 years for depression. The depression medication did not improve my mental state and I felt clueless as to why. It was a relief to know what was actually going on with me. I could finally put a name and face to it.

I informed my family immediately of this new discovery but I did not disclose the severity. I felt that they and others would view me differently. In addition, the stigma of mental illness in the African-American community made me wary of sharing such information. I was ashamed. When I finally disclosed my medical condition to close friends, some understood but I still felt the judgment peering underneath. Most loved ones disregarded the diagnosis. They felt like I was using it as an excuse as to why my life was in disarray and not progressing as normally as theirs. I at times wish that they were more empathetic and did some research on bipolar disorder.

When I am going through the darker side of bipolar disorder, I find it helpful to maintain some distance from the outside world. Showing concern and offering encouragement is okay but suffocation only makes things worse for me. I tend to shut off forms of communication, listen to music, write or sleep. It is not helpful to be asked why I am depressed or tell me that I should “just get over it”. Most of the time, there are no specific reasons for my mood swings and I cannot simply sweep these feelings under a rug.

I wish that people understand that bipolar disorder is not an excuse. It is real and my mind is at constant war with the outside world and myself. At times, I win some battles but there are times when I am too wounded to fight. This disorder is not something that I can flip and on off like a light switch. Patience, empathy and understanding are key when dealing with a loved one with bipolar disorder. I may have bipolar disorder but bipolar disorder does not have me.

by Kenisha from Texas

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