Do you ever stop and take stock of how hard you work to keep going in this battle with bipolar disorder? I rarely do. After some self-reflection, I realized, I am amazing. And so are you—even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
I am a big fan of the group Blues Traveler. They are a blues/rock band that peaked in the 1990s. They are known for the songs “Run-Around” and “The Mountains Win Again,” to name just a few of their hits.
At each concert, the lead singer, John Popper, always—and often—screams out, “You guys are awesome and amazing!”
Those of us who, like me, live with bipolar, are awesome and amazing.
… But are we ever reminded of it?
Working With & Against Bipolar, Every Day
The fight against/with bipolar is real. The anxiety that I live with daily feels like a weight on my back. Some days, the weight feels lighter; other days, it feels so heavy that it is going to crush me.
I am a blessed person with bipolar, as I am able to work what once was my dream job: teaching. I work in an elementary school and wear many hats around campus.
My job is as a support-staff position assisting special-education students. I work with children who have autism, ADHD (attention disorders), and students who struggle with their academics. I have to wear sneakers to school because of the amount of walking I do in just a single day on my small campus.
I float from room to room, jumping in and either working one-on-one while the main teacher is teaching, or pulling together small groups of children who find reading and writing to be more challenging.
I also have other daily tasks, including monitoring students in the lunchroom (yuck!) and supervising them on the playground, which is great when the weather is nice.
Showing Up to Fight the Beast of Bipolar
Not everyone is cut out for this type of job. It’s exhausting and fulfilling at the same time. It is hard enough on its own, regardless of any additional mental health conditions.
Yet I never really take the time to realize just how amazing it is that I can do this kind of work and have success as a person who lives with bipolar.
When we live with bipolar, we spend so much time managing our symptoms and trying to stay stable that sometimes we forget how impressive it is that we keep going. This brain-based disorder brings us new challenges all of the time. Some days, we overcome those challenges without much thought or energy. And other days we stumble. We might stumble more than once. Maybe many times. But we get back up.
Taking Time to Self-Reflect on My Journey with Bipolar
I realized, recently, that it seems like I never take a step back look myself in the mirror and acknowledge that, as Popper reminds us, I am amazing.
I am amazing because I live with a mental illness and dare to keep going—even after the meltdowns I have in private every now and then. There is often crying and a fight with my husband as he tries to be the glue that holds me together in times of dismay. But I keep going forward, and that is amazing.
It appears that I have my life so together, working as an educator who works with special-needs kids, the author of Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping: A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey, and as an inspirational speaker; but I am no different than any of us brave souls who live with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
I fight hard for my stability, taking medicine, sleeping 8–10 hours a night, and exercising. I am blessed to live such a rewarding life, and I don’t take the time to realize just how amazing it is.
It got me thinking … I am pretty awesome and amazing—and so are you, if you live with bipolar or you are a family member on the journey with them.
You Are Amazing
I rarely think of it, but please remember this: you are amazing, too.
You are amazing because you rolled out of bed put both feet on the ground. Maybe you got dressed, and maybe you didn’t, but you dared to live another day with bipolar disorder. (Hopefully you took your meds like I did, too.)
You are amazing because you are here for a purpose. You have value and worth. Even if, at times, you don’t feel like you do.
You are amazing if you have a job—no matter where you work or what you do to put food on the table and a roof over your head.
You are amazing if you do not have a job, too. If you are not stable enough to work right now, you are still amazing. Don’t feel bad. You are exactly where you are supposed to be at this very moment in your bipolar journey.
Life moves fast. Don’t let a day go by without looking in the mirror and telling yourself that you are amazing—because you truly are.
Susan Johnson graduated from Drake University with a BA in sociology. She is the author of Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping: A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey. Since her diagnosis of bipolar I in 1995, Susie's true passion in life is to help break the stigma of mental illness and to bring hope to those who live with one. An accomplished inspirational speaker and guest blogger at bpHope Blog, Susie was the subject of a “This Is Me” Q&A in bp Magazine in 2018. Her writing also appears in the Catholic Exchange, the Kingdom Revelator, and Las Vegas Pet Scene Magazine. Susie co-leads a mental health group at her church and currently works with special education students as an instructional assistant for a school district in Nevada. She will be speaking at TEDxTenayaPaseo in January 2021. And she enjoys hiking, baking, traveling, practicing yoga, spending time with her Goddaughter, and taking trips to Cancun. Originally from Thousand Oaks, CA, Susie now makes her home in fabulous Las Vegas with her husband, Gary, and Siberian cat, Angel-Ann. Visit her website, SJohnsonAuthor.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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