Please welcome our new blogger, Maureen!
My name is Maureen, and I am forty years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about eight years ago. I have battled depression since my teens and was diagnosed with it in my late twenties, while struggling with a stressful career and difficult marriage. My episodes became longer and more debilitating, and short-lived bursts of energy and activity followed. After one particularly difficult episode, I was unable to work and barely able to function. At this point, I was given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Soon after, I lost my job, my marriage, many “friends,” and my independence. Today, with the help of meds and therapy, I am fairly stable. I have returned to college to work toward a degree in counseling and hope to work full-time again soon, helping others with mood disorders. My goals and dreams have changed, but for me, finding a new sense of purpose has been some of the best medicine. Self-care and stress management remain large components of my daily routine. My recovery journey continues to be a long one, challenging yet rewarding. I hope this blog can provide a source of inspiration as it challenges the stigma surrounding mental illness in today’s society.
Words of Encouragement to Jesse Jackson Jr., or To Anyone Struggling With a Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
Reading of your recent diagnosis, I was struck by how my story parallels yours in many ways. From the outside, we both appeared to have it all: successful careers, happy marriages, and hopes and dreams for the future. Behind the façade, however, few people grasped how profoundly depressed we felt much of the time. Everyone was also misled by our periods of extreme energy and creativity in which we could be depended upon to knock almost any project out of the park. I hate how bipolar disorder strikes in the prime of life, tries to rob us of many experiences and successes, and carries such a stigma. It disheartens me to hear reports that are presumptuous enough to say that you will never be well enough to work again. According to NAMI, mental illness affects one in four Americans each year, yet many people are unaware that due to advances in medication and treatment, bipolar disorder and most serious mental illness is manageable and that recovery is possible!
A long grieving process often follows the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which many around you won’t understand. Some days you will struggle to make lemonade from the seemingly endless supply of lemons life now seems to provide. Recovery will not be easy, but I guarantee you, it is worth it. Your goals and dreams will change, but fight to emerge from this experience with a renewed sense of purpose. What you now discover to be your calling may be completely different from what you originally planned to accomplish. Take this opportunity to free yourself from people and things that drain your energy and redefine yourself. Finally, never allow anyone to dismiss you or limit what you can accomplish. The media may say that you aren’t capable of rebuilding your life, and the reactions of some friends, colleagues, and loved ones may disappoint, but I am proof that you can lead a productive life. I refuse to let bipolar disorder take the best of me.