People Like Me: 4 Personal Stories About Living With Bipolar
Though the symptoms may differ, as do specific personal struggles, just knowing we are all in this together can be a source of true strength.
Living with bipolar disorder can require an exhausting amount of time explaining and adjusting and apologizing. Sometimes all it takes to relieve a bit of the pressure is to hear that someone else is going through the same thing.
Sharing our vulnerabilities together and speaking our truth makes navigating the ever-changing path somehow more relatable and inclusive.
It doesn’t matter that symptoms vary widely—in pattern, severity, and frequency—in different people. The struggle to deal with this complex, often sneaky, and unpredictable brain-based illness is a common denominator, one that needs to be talked about openly to combat loneliness, isolation, and shame.
Since bp Magazine’s launch, readers have continued to ask us to write about “people like me”—not only about the famous or highly functional—but about those of us who are in the trenches. In the stories that follow, we present an intimate snapshot into the lives, including the setbacks and uphill struggles, of people who readily share in an effort to help others.
We can be encouraged that there is more awareness, and compassion for our brain and behavior. High-profile influencers are sharing more openly their challenges and breaking down stigma. Celebrity Demi Lovato, who had publicly revealed her relapse from sobriety in her single “Sober” then a month later, was hospitalized, received praise and get-well wishes from supportive fans. The reality is relapse and setbacks are most often part of the process.
“Imagine the hope we can give back to people by creating widespread support and showing the world that it’s possible to get through the darkest times and end up in a place of strength,” the singer told bp Magazine in a previous interview.
The mental health crusade continues to spread and intensify as a result of national grassroots advocacy efforts. Progress has been made, but there’s much more to be done. Getting mental health champions elected to support funding for treatment and services is paramount. Progressing from “stigma” campaigns to promoting our commonality—that mental health conditions are an epidemic and affect nearly every one of us—is crucial to this civil and human rights movement.
There are milestone breakthroughs and advances in research. Late last year 15 collaborating research teams of the National Institutes of Health-funded PsychENCODE consortium discovered the biological mechanisms behind how changes in DNA work in the human brain to boost the risk of bipolar and other psychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders. The landmark findings were published in seven research articles for journals like Science, Translational Medicine, and Science Advances.
Yet there still is a boots-on-the-ground, day-in-and-day-out effort to maintain stability when living with bipolar. There are highs that morph into lows, negative consequences to inappropriate decisions, strained relationships. Searching for support and strength—sometimes finding it, sometimes not.
In the personal stories that follow, you’ll read about the difficulties of holding down a steady job, being a consistent partner and parent, learning to be truly independent.
The four people profiled here are hopeful that their personal struggles will resonate with others and underscore the poignant reality that no one with bipolar is alone. That inspiration exists even when symptoms are in full force. That stability is possible.
In the morning I spend about an hour sitting in silence and doing some breathing techniques. It took years of practice to do it for that length of time, but I’ve mastered it. It was part of my therapy, to meditate, to try to be quiet. I used to say, “What does being quiet look like?” Now I know, and I can’t start my day without it. [end of excerpt]
Printed as “People Like Me: Four Personal Stories,” Summer 2019