Please welcome new blogger Marybeth!
Marybeth Smith was diagnosed with Bipolar II in 2007 at age 26 after 10 years of being misdiagnosed with Depression. Once the denial lifted, she found the strength to finally be open with her illness. In 2010, after her 7 yr old son was also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she created the website www.askabipolar.com in hopes of helping others understand what it’s like to suffer from mental illnesses. This past July, Marybeth wrote the Amazon Kindle Best Seller, Fall Girl. Her goal is to teach the world not only what bipolar does to the person suffering with the illness, but also those who are close to them. She is currently working on the sequel which will be released in early 2012 while also pursuing a degree in Child Psychology. In her limited spare time, she designs websites and writes articles for bpHope and The International Bipolar Foundation as well as volunteering for NAMI Michigan.
How I removed my cone of shame …
Four years ago, after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder during a hospitalization, I convinced myself that my life was over and would never, in a million years, be where I am today. My diagnosis was followed by dose of shame, a few sips of denial, and a personal prescription to avoid telling anyone about it whenever possible. I was so embarrassed I even quit my job because I didn’t want to have to tell my coworkers why I had been absent for two weeks.
It’s hard to admit having a mental illness, its worse when that illness is tied to a long line of stigmas. I hid behind my illness for about two years, barely admitting to myself what was wrong. However, in 2009 my son was also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and although I had been suspecting it even before my own diagnosis, hearing the words from the mouth of a psychiatrist changed my life.
I could no longer hide the tiny closet of Bipolar Shame, which was a blessing because it’s far too overcrowded as it is! I now had to face the reality that by denying who I was would only teach my son to be ashamed of who he was and there was no freaking way I was going to let any child of mine be ashamed of who they are/were.
Here I am now, two years after his diagnosis, and I am not even a glimmer of that girl who tried to pretend her moods never fluctuated and her depression was always due to life situations. Today, I’m loud and proud of being mentally ill. And I mean loud! Not only do I not have a problem telling people about it, I get out on the internet and tell the whole world about it. I write blogs about having Bipolar. I write books about what it’s like to live with someone who has Bipolar. I even get up in front of groups of people and tell them all about Bipolar; what it’s like, how it feels, and the trials and heartache of raising someone who has it as well.
The most entertaining part of coming clean with my Bipolar Disorder is the reactions I have received. People don’t shy away from me when they here I’m “crazy” or have am prone to ridiculous mood swings. Instead, they look at me for a moment then suddenly burst into a story of their own about a friend, family member, co-worker or even they have a mental illness. People bombard me with questions about Bipolar Disorder and commend me on my ability to speak so candidly about it.
They actually commend me!
And now I get to be this bestselling author, well known founder of a huge website, blogger for huge organizations who support mental illness, future child psychologist, and weirdest of all (as well as hardest to admit to myself) … I’m someone who people look up to.
Why am I sharing all this? Well it’s not to toot my own horn, that’s for sure. Anyone who knows me well enough knows it’s actually hard for me to admit these things most of the time. I’m sharing these personal parts of my life to convince those out there who suffer bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and having one shouldn’t hold anyone back from being anything and everything they want to be. Having a mental illness is just a gateway to a whole new world that we can experience and thus share our experiences with others in the hopes of ripping apart the stigma which is attached to mental disorders.
In my next article I will share what it’s like to be in the spotlight with Bipolar and how I cope (because it’s not always as glamorous and exciting as it sounds … though it IS definitely worth it!)