Sometimes I like to tell people that I was once a Special Education teacher. That was a part of my past identity I was very proud of and was the career I wanted and loved. It was a part of my identity that was stolen from me at gun point by evil monsters that robbed my brain of everything it once knew to be real and to be me.
These evil monsters changed the chemistry of my brain and gave me a new label they called Bipolar Disorder 1 with rapid cycling and mixed episodes. A few years after I was given my new diagnosis, the symptoms of my Bipolar Disorder became too severe and I could no longer teach anymore. I lost everything. I lost my career, my income, my friends, my husband, my home, and my identity.
For many years I refused to believe I had Bipolar Disorder, fought it, went off all of my medications, was in denial and lost many years of my life. Unfortunately, it took many years for me to finally accept that I had Bipolar Disorder. Acceptance is the first step in recovery.
Once I finally accepted my diagnoses, it was then that I could begin the process of my recovery and begin to survive, live again and start to thrive. One of the hardest parts for me was to find a brand new identity, role and purpose in my life. I was still myself, but I had lost so much of my past self, life and identity that I had to find a new part of me that could help define me.
I still wanted to be successful and make a difference and know that I had a purpose in the world. I love to help people so I needed to do that. I began to learn again that I was a good person, I mattered and that my life has a purpose.
I think I still tell people that I used to teach Special Education, because I feel that was and still is a big part of who I really am. I like to remind people that I am so much more than what it appears I am. There is usually one big problem with telling people that I used to be a Special Education Teacher. People will usually ask me why I do not teach anymore and that is sometimes a very difficult question for me to answer.
As I fish for the correct answer to reply with, my mind is flooded with many different thoughts and questions. What should I tell them? How should I tell them? Should I tell them the complete truth? What will they think of me? Will these people understand? Do they even know what Bipolar Disorder is? Do they believe it is a real illness even though it is an invisible illness? Do they understand how severe Bipolar is? Will they discriminate against me after I tell them the truth? Will they be afraid of me?
Then I begin to realize that I should tell them the truth because it is my passion to increase awareness, educate others about mental illness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. I am no longer ashamed of my illness so I should just tell them. But, the stigma for Bipolar Disorder is still so huge and prevalent. Will they no longer like me? Will they think differently of me if I tell them the truth?
Most importantly, they need to learn the truth about mental illness and Bipolar Disorder. They need to learn that many people have this illness and it is a real illness. I need to help educate others about my illness. This is my job. It is one of my purposes in my life.
I need to be a voice for others that cannot speak up for themselves. I am a Bipolar Disorder survivor and I am a good and strong person. I need to tell the truth. My story is part of who I am and it is part of my new identity. I am not ashamed of who I am or that I have Bipolar Disorder. It is not a character flaw. I did not cause it to happen and I cannot just snap my fingers to make it go away.
I need to serve the Lord in what ever way He calls me to and one of them is to help others by sharing my story. God has a purpose and a plan for my life. I can be an inspiration to many.
These are the many thoughts that rapidly flood my mind. I must bait my hook, catch the best and biggest fish in my mind by answering the question honestly and sharing my story to help educate and reduce the stigma of mental illness and Bipolar Disorder. The time is now. We have to free the ocean, land and world of the stigma of mental Illness and Bipolar Disorder.