I know that when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I felt very alone. I felt like I had been handed a life sentence and no one could understand what that felt like. But to be honest, I had been dealing with depression for years. Depression ostracizes you. It makes you feel worthless and unlovable. Depression is not your friend.
For a while I lived in my ice castle alone, allowing doctors and therapists to visit every week. Then I joined a bipolar disorder support group. I was the youngest by at least a decade. I learned so much from them. They had lived (SURVIVED) for longer than I could comprehend. We were facilitated by a counselor who eventually became my individual therapist. It wasn’t a “poor me” group. It was a “this happened and this is how I handled it” group. I saw hope that I would one day live on my own again, after all, if they could do it, why couldn’t I?
I learned that it was okay to let people in, to let people know about my mental illness, and in that I found an extended family. Again, to be blatantly honest, some of my friends ran, but some stuck around and over time I made new ones who supported me through the ups and downs of this illness. If I had a penny for every time I’ve called someone when I felt a panic attack coming on, I wouldn’t have to worry about selling my book…And they are okay with it. They get it. They talk me through it and distract me from the feeling of clawing my chest open.
For the past two years I’ve raised money and walked for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in Virginia Beach. I am one with that group of people – all affected in some way by suicide. It is sad that it takes such tragedies to bring us together.
So my point in all of this is that you are not alone. You can choose to be, but you don’t have to be. Find a support group through NAMI or DBSA or a forum group here on Psych Central or elsewhere on the Internet. Find support in your family; among your friends. Don’t try to face bipolar disorder alone. It is a hell of an illness and you can use all the support you can get.
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