I speak out because you spoke out first. Coming to terms with my mental illness has been no easy task. I have pleaded for it to go away and I’ve been angry about why me, but what’s the point? I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a child. No matter what I did I always felt alone in my journey. Sure my therapist and doctors reminded me that 5.7 million American adults with bipolar but certainly I didn’t know any.
Outing yourself is hard enough but when people associate crazy with your illness you tend to stay quiet. If no one knows my diagnosis then no one will know my struggles, if no one knows I’m suffering they can’t judge me right? This is the dangerous cycle of keeping quiet about mental health.
Long before my diagnosis I learned the consequences of staying quiet. It was two days after my 19th birthday that I lost my older brother to suicide. Completely blindsided by my brother’s death I vowed to do whatever I could to make sure no other family felt the pain mine has experienced. Even with my voice quivering I vow stand up and speak out, my brother’s death will not be in vain.
It wasn’t easy to open up about my deepest pain, but exposing my deepest secret is a whole different ball game. For the longest time it was only my doctor, my husband, and myself who knew I was bipolar. If I kept it in it’s safe little bubble then I always had control over my illness, but the truth is I’ve never had control over this.
You used your position of power for good, you picked a very personal secret and exposed it to the world. You took a risk to normalize and destigmatize mental health. You showed me that I could live with this illness and still be happy and successful. All the things that felt impossible. Happiness and success were far from attainable, but you proved me wrong.
With the help of my doctors I put one foot in front of the other and slowly but surely I started to feel better. I did the work because if you can be happy and successful why can’t I? Not long after I started getting help I made the decision to be an expert in my illness. I don’t need to be bipolar expert I just need to be an expert in MY illness.
It wasn’t long after I gained control of my illness that I understood how much strength it took for you to speak out. It was because of you I didn’t feel so alone. You showed me that life could still be full of good things, and my life is full of good things.
It was was because of you that I found the strength to share my story. I have found a true happiness that I will continue to fight for each day. Opening up about my time in therapy and how the season change affects my moods has allowed other people to open up to me. My voice is less shakey these days but my fears of judgement remains the same. Unlike the people that judge me I know what true happiness feels like and I want everyone to experience this. This is why I now speak up.