This summer I’m coming up on two years and seven years of the anniversaries of going through very scary and unsettling manic episodes. My bipolar disorder has been managed since 2019. I’ve felt balanced and mostly like the best version of myself since then. I have my ups and downs, but I always come back to my baseline, which is one of health and joy.
With these anniversaries approaching, I am mourning how I was poorly treated in past hospitalizations. I share my story for many reasons, but I continue to share my words especially for those with mental illness like me. We are not “scary”, “crazy” or “hopeless”. I always say that the illness may be scary, but we are not; it’s important to separate the person from the illness. It’s important to humanize the sufferer. Mental illness is not a choice. We don’t always have access to being our best selves — even our healthiest selves — when mental illness has touched our lives.
The medications I take for my bipolar disorder help tremendously. I have had a couple occurrences the past couple years where I had paranoid thoughts. When I was in manic episodes in the past, I kept everything inside me; I was paranoid in my paranoia and believed if I spoke about what was going on in my mind, I would somehow be punished. These moments I felt paranoid since my diagnosis back in 2019, I immediately spoke to my therapist about it. To my surprise, the paranoia completely dissipated once I spoke about it. I learned that by talking it through, I was able to discern what was reality and what was false. It makes sense for our minds to wander, and it is ok if past struggles resurface; we are only human. In working through these struggles and being gentle with ourselves, we find that healing is just on the horizon.
I take medication as needed for ADD, and I have to be careful with how I address myself because the energy I get from the medication can remind me of the beginnings of mania. I take time in those moments I feel this way to remind myself I am ok and healthy. “I am in control of myself” has been a helpful mantra. Of course, “control” can have its negative implications if it crosses over to obsession, but I am more-so talking about being aware of feeling in control of my thoughts and actions so I can feel better as opposed to controlling myself; there is a key difference there. When I was experiencing manic episodes due to bipolar disorder, I felt very out of control — as if I wasn’t myself and like someone else was making decisions for me. Being careful with how I talk to myself and being open with myself and others helps me realize I am in fact not in a manic episode again. I understand that the ADD medication helps me with my focus, so I remind myself of its purpose and that I’m ok. This insight and awareness I have now has taken time to develop. It is a very helpful practice and I’m grateful I can hone in on these skills. I used to not know productivity that didn’t spiral into the compulsions and high-and-low emotions of mania.
I’m really thankful I have found the right medication and therapy for myself. I’m thankful I have had access to these treatments. I recognize I am privileged to have some access to help, whereas many others may not. Mental healthcare absolutely needs to be made more affordable and accessible. I believe activism, advocacy and awareness all go hand-in-hand in one day changing how it is now. I hope by normalizing these struggles, we bring more awareness to the need for more accessible care. Mental health is health; it can affect us in any and every way. Our mental health needs to be prioritized just as anything else in order to foster healing.
I’m sending so much love to anyone who was mocked, mistreated or harmed by professionals when they were in a mental health crisis or needed help. It’s a different kind of pain when people who should be helping are hurting the most vulnerable. We may be vulnerable at times, but in that vulnerability there is a brightness, compassion and healing that will prevail. We will prevail. We will heal ourselves and we will heal each other.
When we are experiencing a mental health crisis, we deserve to be believed, taken seriously and respected. Although I had access to being hospitalized in the past, I did not always have access to respectful or compassionate people. I try to remind myself that treatment for mental health is always improving. I especially try to remind myself that I deserved compassionate treatment — even in my worst moments. Mental health professionals are trained for the very situations I was in, and sadly, some of them failed me.
I look forward to going into the mental health field as a professional once I complete my degrees. I am grateful for the platform I have because I can educate and share my experiences as someone who deeply understands and has a desire to help.
It’s never ok for a mental health professional or someone in the mental health field to mock or disregard people in vulnerable places. It is never ok for them to abuse their power.
The nurses and psychiatrist who tormented me in the hospital when I was ill seven years ago did not know I’d end up helping people heal where they did not.