Celebrating My Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
A version of this post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
Bipolar disorder is simply a series of symptoms that I am fortunate enough to have to manage on a daily basis. I say fortunate, in earnest, because it has given me an opportunity to live in a world with brighter colors and crisper sounds. It has forced me to grow as a person and get in touch with who I truly am.
Getting up on a daily basis is sometimes truly exhausting. I recently came to the understanding that I am more scared of failure than succumbing to my illness and not giving myself a chance to succeed. It is a mindset that has allowed me to thrive and even excel in my life. This doesn’t mean I haven’t failed in the past or won’t fail again in the future. It simply means given the choice of staying in bed and giving in or getting up and moving — I get up and move.
One thing I have learned is that everything passes. Good feelings come and go just as quickly as bad feelings. I have had days where I can’t imagine making it through the morning only to have an incredible day! The days I wake up feeling hopeless and overwhelmed (and they are many) my first step is to shower and eat breakfast. Sometimes I work during breakfast, other times I read the news and sip on my coffee and others I simply sip on my coffee and ask the universe for an intuitive thought or action. Rarely have I gone back to my house to go back to bed. I might drive around for a little bit — for scheduled appointments or appointments I wish I had — whatever it takes to give myself the opportunity for my mind and body to engage in the day.
2015 was a rough year for me. My company grew by 30 percent, my wife was able to stay home with our kids, I paid off all our student loan debt and re-landscaped our yard (which was very overdue)! Based on above — it sounded terrible, didn’t it? Then my pharmacy sent me half the dosage of a drug I take and I didn’t catch it until it was way too late. I took the wrong dosage for three months before realizing what happened.
I then spent two months, July and August, waking up with suicidal thoughts daily. I often went to work in hysterics without any way of knowing how I was going to make it through that day. I would share with close friends that if I didn’t have kids and a wife I would have probably attempted suicide.
I am the sole breadwinner and provider for my family. On top of my medications not working, I was terrified to let my family down. They have never placed any undue burden on me — I am solely responsible for that! I was just terrified to not be able to deliver the expectations I had established in my mind.
During this time, in addition to having the greatest professional year in quite some time, I created a digital mindfulness manager and wellness platform from scratch. I knew there had to be a better way and failure was never an option. Even during my darkest days, I would be writing emails to clients, delegating work to employees, designing my own software all while not knowing if I would make it through the day. I spent my evenings staring at the ceiling or watching mind-numbing television wondering how everyone else seemed to have it so much better than I did and when it was going to be my turn to feel better.
After catching this catastrophic medication mishap late summer, it took me another three months to stabilize. During this time I was a total mess internally, however, I did what I needed to get done externally. I took naps and had lots of doctors appointments. Self-care and advocacy were paramount to my success. I was terrified early on in my illness that I would be letting people down if I had to reschedule — the reality was that if I hadn’t advocated for myself there wouldn’t be an opportunity for future meetings as I wouldn’t be there.
I shared with clients that I had close relationships with what I was going through and surprisingly they were supportive and understanding. Bottom line, I never gave up and today I am grateful for having another episode and coming out the other side. I recently celebrated receiving my bipolar disorder diagnosis 22 years ago! My birthday this year marked seven years since my last hospitalization.
I am stronger today than I have ever been. I’m looking forward and am realistic about the fact that another episode may be lurking around the corner. It doesn’t frighten me as I know I have the right support structure in place and stories like the one above to remind me that this too shall pass — it always does!