The 2015 Peace Charlie Winning Essay

The Peace Charlie Essay competition has been a great success. The four members of the Selection Committee unanimously chose the winning essay based on the thoughtful and insightful expressions on living with bipolar disorder. All of the applicants experiences and triumphs in coping with bipolar disorder were truly inspiring. The Selection Committee wish all who applied continued success in managing their bipolar disorder, as well as reaching their academic goals.

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I imagine bipolar disorder being like the ocean tide, like cycling waves. When the tide is low, the shore will be extremely vulnerable to the glistening sun. The beams beat down and down, evaporating the water below. The marine life will shrivel up, weak and exhausted. Other times when the tide is high, the chaotic current will be so strong it seems almost impossible to swim. The water is deep, dark and daunting.

There was a point in my life where the tide was so high, low and everything in between, that I surrendered and started drowning. I used negative, self-destructive coping skills. I was misdiagnosed and put on antidepressants. They made the bad, worse. They made me feel crazy. I went in and out of multiple treatment centers, rehabs, and mental hospitals. Later on, a new physiatrist informed me that I had bipolar 2. When I first received this diagnosis I wasn’t surprised. I was relieved that I could take medication that brought me to balance.

However, the honeymoon phase of relief soon ended. I was mad. I did not want to be defined by this illness. To gain confidence I thought of it like this. When I introduce myself to someone, I don’t say “Hi, I’m bipolar.” I say “Hi, I’m Cara.” Yes, bipolar disorder is a piece of me, but it is not my name.

I have told most of my friends and family. They’re pretty respectful and aware that bipolar is a sensitive subject for me. I disliked a few responses though. If I have a bad day some people assume it’s bipolar that’s making it bad. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. Regardless, I have problems just like whoever is assuming does. Not every difficult human experience can be justified with a pill. Maybe I struggled academically or socially that day. Maybe bipolar was not to blame. It’s not an excuse always. I am hesitant to tell people because I don’t want a pity party. I don’t want to be ostracized.

If a boy broke his leg all the kids would sign his cast. On the other hand, if a boy had bipolar disorder and metaphorically wore a “cast” around his brain, those kids would snicker and stare. Mental illnesses shouldn’t be looked upon as a burden. If society could empathize and not shame, then it would be easier to ask for help.

There is a therapeutic DBT skill called “ride the wave.” When the tides are rapidly shifting I accept them. I try not to bottle up how I feel. Mother Nature is the only one who can truly control the wave patterns on earth. That’s why I take it a day by day, and ride the wave.

By Cara from Colorado