Bipolar Disorder Will NOT Define Me

Last Updated: 5 Jul 2019

Depression makes me feel limited and, at times, hopeless. But I have not come this far to be limited. I have not survived the countless previous bipolar storms to let this one have the final say. I will not let bipolar define me.


During depression, it is hard not to see my life as one gigantic, bipolar tornado. My perspective of the world narrows and darkens, and hopelessness finds it’s way back into my life. I have been in a depression, and thoughts like this overwhelm me. I recognize my perspective is limited, but it seems so real and permanent. I have been weighed down with the heaviness of depression, where every breath currently seems like a struggle. Every component of daily life feels like a tremendous amount of effort is required. Things that seemed so easy just weeks ago now are a chore. Basic daily tasks exhaust me. My patience is thin and my anger close to the surface. Anger then tears. All so very close to the surface. It is easy to forget what depression-free living feels like, even though it was just a short time ago. I feel so often defined by bipolar disorder. I feel limited and at times hopeless.

But I have not come this far to be limited. I have not survived the countless previous bipolar storms to let this one have the final say. I will not let bipolar define me. 

It is easy for me to get caught up in the illness. The symptoms. The disability and career instability. Most people ask questions like, what do you do for a living? Are you married? Do you have kids? Maybe that is why it is hard to be around people right now. My answers are that I have been battling with bipolar since I was 18 years old. I am not in the career I earned my degree in because of my disability caused by bipolar. I feel like all I have been doing is sitting in wait for my next episode to occur. I have been letting bipolar define me. But I need this to change.

I am a human being as wonderful and complicated and beautiful as that is. Bipolar disorder has definitely made my life more difficult to say the least, but I am not just a disorder. My worth is not dependent on my job, my salary, my symptoms, my illness. In times of darkness and depression, it is hard not to see it like this. But I have glimpses. Glimpses of hope like I have written about before. I hear my nephew call me auntie and I realize I am just that. An auntie, a sister, a child, a friend, a caregiver, a person of worth and value.

Suicidal thoughts try to tear away at these ideas and turn things into black and white. Bipolar tells me I am my symptoms and my life is not worthwhile. During depression, it is hard not to listen to or believe these things. It is hard to look at my life from a brighter perspective. But I have learned that there are many perspectives. I just have to wait for the muddy waters to clear. I have to hold on, endure the storm. So I am holding. I am waiting. For I know there will be an end to this depression. I will once again find relief and my view of my life will brighten. The hard part is in the waiting. The enduring.

But I know things will change. They always do. Things change for the better, then worse, then better again. I am holding on for the ride. I have learned this is not just because of bipolar, but because I am human. It is a shared human experience. We all have our ups and downs, some higher and some lower, but things change. Things always change. So I am confident that this depression will lift. The heaviness and burden I feel will ease. Hopelessness will lessen its grip and I will feel comforted again.  Until then, I continue to find my glimpses of hope and rely upon my experience to know relief will come. I may have bipolar disorder, but I refuse to let it define me.

About the author
Laura Fisher attended The University of Montana where she received her B.A. in Biology in 2004 and Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2007. She lived and worked in Seattle for six years as a physical therapist in a variety of treatment settings. She recently moved back to her hometown of Billings, Montana and lives with her two dogs and family nearby. Laura has lived with Bipolar 1 Disorder for 18 years. She enjoys her work in physical therapy, private caregiving, and dog sitting. Laura is the Volunteer Coordinator and Leadership Team member for the Rainbow Coffee House, a safe space for high-school aged LGBT high students to gather, drink coffee, and connect with community. Laura hopes to share her own experience with bipolar disorder to provide hope for those struggling with this illness.
  1. Laura,

    I appreciate how you are both honest and hopeful in a way that is not Pollyanna. Keep up the good fight as you have inspired me to keep up mine.

  2. My husband always says of himself “I am bipolar” and this is the message he needs — it does not define him. And when I am frustrated with the current situation of a depressive episode that has lasted over a year, he needs to understand I am not blaming or angry at him but I’m mad at the illness.

  3. Laura, Great article! I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 for over 30 years. The first 20 years I self-defined as a Bip (my word for bipolar). “I am bipolar” was my internal message. Then I realized that Bip was similar to diabetes in that the body doesn’t function well and needs medication. Hey! People with diabetes don’t open a conversation with, “I’m a diabetic,” so why am I doing this to myself. Now I say, “I’m a writer, an artist, an educator.” Thanks for the great piece. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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