The 2010 Peace Charlie Winning Essay

Bipolar disorder is a disease of the mood. The mood is a powerful force that influences emotions, cognition, and behavior. Bipolar visits people in many forms, but it always consists of bursts of energy, creativity, extroversion, and overall joie de vivre. Sadly, this can lead to self destructive behavior. Milder cases find it more beneficial then harmful. Often, as if to compensate, periods of depression occur. Bipolar individuals cycle between these states, and the shades of grey in between, hopefully with some time in a normal state. Moods can cycle in response to stress, or at regular intervals. Sometimes, these two extremes co-exist in a mixed state.

My sorrow follows me, like a shadow. It’s been there as far back as I can remember. I received psychotherapy starting in second grade for my sorrow. In eighth grade, a psychosis occurred that lasted a year. I was told years later that the occasional burst of energy and agitation that occur are a part of bipolar. Upon learning this, I felt cheated. For others with bipolar, the highs are euphoric. For me, the sorrow returns too often. My hypomania barely compensates for it.

The difficulty understanding mental illness is in its unpredictable, relative, and vague nature. I wish my gifts and limitations were clear cut. The layman has no trouble understanding when, where, or why the paralyzed or blind have trouble doing a thing. Their problem is defined in concrete terms, and is ever-present. The understanding that I vary, that I am not stable, is hard for others. Some people regard mental illness as untreatable, laziness, or a moral failure. Others incorrectly associate it with violence. People often think the irrationality of my problem should be enough to wish it better. The most common response to a discussion about bipolar is complete and total ignorance. It seems I have to educate everyone I meet.

Information about my condition is on a “need to know” basis. I tell my teachers, immediate supervisors, family, and close friends. I do not tell someone until it becomes clear that they need an explanation. The reason I even speak of my problem at all is to put my behavior into perspective. I do not want others to lower their expectations, or to take pity. I simply want them to know that I don’t mean to do some of the things I do, and that I need additional help sometimes. To identify my problem as an illness, and not a part of my character, empowers me. When others see my bipolar in the same way, it is easier for them to forgive me for the things I do when I am sick. When others forgive me, it becomes far easier to forgive myself. I need to know that when something happens I can be forgiven, so that I can forgive myself, and move on. This is what I want to hear when I speak of my bipolar.

I hope my words help you to understand this problem.

by Bradley from Colorado

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