Whenever I start a new piece of writing or artwork, I always question the importance of my words, the worthiness of my own thoughts, and the meaning behind my brush strokes.
Do I really have something worth saying? Worth writing? Worth painting?
Or am I just trying to placate the screaming of my inner voice by getting it all out on paper in hopes that I will be enlightened by my own ideas and the all-consuming mental illness I’ve been dealing with for decades will magically disappear?
I always worry about who will see it, what they will think, and how I will take on the repercussions of my own words.
Will others tell me I’m crazy and that it’s all in my head? Will they recommend I try this new type of yoga or eat a diet filled with antioxidants and superfoods to cure the inescapable sadness that engulfs my soul every time I fall deeper into a depression? Will they question my ability to be a functional adult who keeps a steady job and maintains healthy relationships?
There are things that the self-help books and informational articles you read on WebMD won’t tell you about Bipolar Disorder. They won’t tell you about the friends you will lose to years of silence and disregard during your earliest episodes when basic “coping skills” just don’t cut it and you’re launched headfirst into a brand new world that is falling apart before you.
They don’t tell you about the dark shadow that follows you around even on the sunniest of days when the world is bright and your future looks hopeful. They don’t tell you about the ever-present anxiety and paranoia that encompasses your life, from going to the grocery store to hanging out with loved ones. They don’t tell you about the phrases and intrusive thoughts that will play on repeat in your head when you can’t find the words to “fix”—let alone vocalize, what you are experiencing.
They don’t tell you about the periods of “wellness” in which you question your own reality and existence:
Was I really depressed, or am I just lazy? Was I actually manic, or just overly productive and creative? Do I need these pills that I take like clockwork to calm my nerves and emotional outbursts? Am I medicating to ease my pain, or is my pain caused by the medication?
They don’t tell you about the trauma you might experience while figuring out how to live in a world filled with chaos, excitement, and uncertainties.
Was it my fault for putting myself in a dangerous situation in the first place? Why should I be so distraught over the marks I made on my own arm and the words I wrote when I didn’t think I could live like this anymore? Is it normal to feel shame and guilt over something you brought upon yourself?
They don’t tell you that even when “seeking treatment” and living a “functional” existence, your memories have a way of rearing their ugly heads when you are minding your own business and just going about your day. You are reminded so easily of times of turmoil and catastrophe.
Nobody ever told me these things when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 13 years ago. How would they have known that the words I would one day speak as my own understanding of the dark cloud within me could urge others to do the same? How could they have known that to scream on paper through phrases and tunes and masterpieces, to share your existence with the world in a way that maybe only you can understand is to heal?
The experts don’t tell you how to write your own story. But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. And if for just a moment during the day, the words you put on paper help you make sense of this up-and-down roller coaster of a bipolar existence, then you should do just that.
Learn about yourself not from the WebMD articles and self-help books, but from telling your story in Times New Roman size-12 font or on a blank canvas in your basement. You are the author, the holder of the pen or guitar or paintbrush. Your story is your own. And who cares if nobody understands? If you can make sense of your own jumbled thoughts, then you are one step closer to the light.
So tell your story, and don’t leave out the messy parts. Let others know they are not alone in this journey.
What you have to say will always be worth saying.
Your diagnosis is not the end of your story. You are capable of living with bipolar disorder. Healing is still possible. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.