I grew up with a bipolar dad who committed suicide when I was 24. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years after he died, when my delayed reaction to his suicide triggered my first depressive episode. Before my diagnosis, I struggled with unexplained racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and conflicted relationships. I always knew there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until I had a psychological evaluation, underwent therapy and found the right mood-stabilizing medication that I was able to finally find peace within myself. I’m thankful to finally have an answer as to why I made so many bad decisions. Here are five reasons I’m grateful for the insight my bipolar diagnosis has given me.
- I can explain my behavior.
From sleeping with strangers to getting arrested for shoplifting, I struggled with impulsive, destructive behaviors for years. I’m not saying my bipolar disorder was an excuse, but it’s given me an explanation as to why I compulsively made so many mistakes that hurt myself and those around me.
- I have peace of mind.
I used to lay in bed at night, trying to fall asleep but unable to because of the repetitive, disruptive thoughts racing around in my buzzing mind. The hardest part about it was not knowing why this obsessive voice in my head would not shut up. Now I know not to panic, it’s just my illness talking, and I can reach out for help if I need it.
- I can forgive myself.
Before I was diagnosed, I used to push myself too hard and beat myself up if I couldn’t finish a task. Now that I’m armed with an accurate diagnosis, I understand not every day has to be a huge success. When my energy has been zapped, I let myself off the hook. Part of accepting my diagnosis has been understanding that I have unique needs that require compassion for myself.
- I can forgive my dad.
I grew up with a bipolar dad who was often depressed and distant. He’d skip my piano recitals and lock himself in his room for days. I was the little girl with daddy issues—I craved his attention and felt unloved. He succumbed to his illness in 1998 and took his own life, and for years I was angry at him for abandoning me. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with the same illness that I was able to understand my dad’s behavior wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t his either. I understand him now through the lens of my diagnosis, and I forgive him.
- I can be proud of myself.
Bipolar disorder isn’t an easy illness to have. I can go from being too manic to think straight or too depressed to get out of bed. But because I’ve made it through both manic and depressive episodes and lived to tell about it, I can say with pride that I’m a strong, resilient woman. And I’m confident I can make it through anything.
You may be newly diagnosed, but it’s nothing to fear. With an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment, you can live a happy, healthy life. I’m living proof: I haven’t just survived, I’ve thrived. I have the career of my dreams as an Emmy-nominated film industry graphic designer and a strong support network of loving friends and family. While I’ve had many professional achievements, I’m most proud of my recovery, perhaps my hardest-fought battle.