Don’t Leave Out The Messy Parts

By Caitlin AndersonJune 29, 2021

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 [email protected]

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Comments (10)

  1. Tammy Copland

    I am literally sobbing. Its like you wrote down the thoughts in my head. I have not got bipolar but I do have a mess of other diagnosise’ which leave me feeling much the same way. Yes I do feel its normal to feel guilt and shame for things you have brought upon yourself. It is painful to take meds and its painful not to. I question who I am all the time, abd at times I feel Im doing ok someone will let me know different. Living with this life is confusing frustrating, and its lonely. I feel like Im going though the motions in an existence I don’t really want. I can see a life I’d like to have but its just out of reach, and at times I dare to think its possible all the bad things about me get pointed out as proof as to why it can never be. So I plod alone each day not really living, never hoping, filling my time with mundane family chores and activities in thd hopes that I can make everyone happy and content to ease my guilt over them being stuck with me.
    Thats the messy bits in my head today

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We are so sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing on a daily basis. We are grateful, however, that you were willing to share such an honest part of your existence with us, and found this blog. You are not alone in how you’re feeling or what you’re going through. And while it is difficult to believe in hope and help sometimes, know that it does exist and we are here to hold on to it and connect you to it. Would you email our team at [email protected] so we can learn more about your story and offer you encouragement and help? It would truly be our honor.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  2. Heidi Burk

    This is all the things I don’t know how to say. All the things no one seems to understand. This makes me feel less alone.

    Reply  |  
  3. Kristin Kaltenberg

    You are a very brave person to share this and I for one thank you. My son was in love with a newly diagnosed girl with bipolar disorder. Long story short, she broke up wit him. I believe she thought she was doing him a favor, although I also think she was resentful towards him also for always checking if she’d taken her med, if she was feeling OK etc…
    I’d love to share this article with her as I still love her like a daughter. She’s still in our lives, but only as a friend now. What I don’t want to do is overstep my bounds. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you care to share.
    Thanks again.

    Reply  |  
  4. Jenny

    Thank you for this. It’s so well written and gives me hope and understanding to better help myself and my son. I am glad I read it.

    Reply  |  
  5. Tammy

    This is so amazing! And true! I’m a mom of a daughter with bi-polar depression. I truly believe everyone needs to tell their own story! Thank you!

    Reply  |  
  6. Lori

    Holy wow. Speaks to me in so many ways. The writing stood out to me so much. The process of writing my own struggles and pain. I too have found peace (maybe peace…? What us peace?) In writing my words and thoughts on a page. It is sort of cathartic to me. I write what I feel and think, and when I can get the words to rhyme or fit right, I regain a bit of a sense of control just for that very brief moment. Once I write it, I often never read those stories or poems again. I let them go and forget as best as I can.

    The hurt and pain always returns again, but for a minute I am peaceful and I feel calm. If I have put the words on paper, I don’t have to feel them in my body anymore.

    Unfortunately, I’ve recently learned a lesson of pain and regret in sharing my words. I shared my feelings to get them out of my head. I asked my husband to read my words in a moment of weakness and exhaustion…
    These were words of anger and depression. Words of frustration and hurt…I did so out of pure desperation. Desperation for him to understand. To understand the words I needed him to hear. But, they were not words meant to sadden or harm, but they did. My words hurt him. They weren’t meant to hurt him, though they were angry and full of passion. My words were not intended to cause pain for another, for those words have already caused plenty of pain. Pain for me and my family, my job and my friends.

    How could I have thought he’d get it? How could I have thought they’d make sense for him? I am stupid. I was blind.

    You wrote about the worry and repercussions of what people would think. Why I didn’t worry about how he’d take it or what he would think?

    I thank you for your story, for sharing your inner most beautiful words. I related on so many levels

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We are so glad that writing can provide you with a space to express, process, and reflect on your emotions. Many folks on our team feel a similar connection to writing and journaling.

      We are, however, sorry to hear that in sharing your words, you were met with a misunderstanding. Please know that this one instance does not mean you cannot share with others. We are a safe and judgment-free space for you to share, and you can email our team at [email protected]. Sharing with someone removed from the situation can be helpful as well.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  7. Rick

    God bless you

    Reply  |  
  8. Rebecca

    Well said. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
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