I grew up thinking that mental illness was fake. It was just something people used as an excuse not to work. Imagine my surprise when I was sent home early from my LDS mission because of one! That was the only time I’ve ever thrown up on an airplane, and it wasn’t simply because I was on an airplane. It was because I was on an airplane straight to my dad who was going to be SO disappointed in my “fake” need to come home 17 months early. (PS He actually wasn’t. He was quite sweet about it.)
Later that year, I learned I was bipolar. I had to learn a lot about being bipolar. I’ve also had to learn what I’m NOT:
Faking it. Most of the time, I have to fake being well.
The cause of all chaos in my life. If anything, I handle the chaos that naturally happens with grace.
Weak. It takes a lot of strength to be me.
Looking for attention. In fact, I generally try to divert attention from my mental illness.
A drug addict. I have gone through a lot of medications to find the right ones. And I do take nine pills every night. But that’s so I can have the right “cocktail” that works just for me and my situation. And bipolar disorder is not the only thing I take pills for.
Off my meds if I experience an emotion. Everyone experiences emotions. I just experience hyper-emotions. My meds make me experience the normal emotions that everyone else does—not no emotions at all.
Incapable of having meaningful relationships. It’s true, I have lost some relationships due to my illness, but that was not my fault. It was simply more than those friends could handle, and I can’t really blame them—bipolar disorder is often more than even I can handle. But I do have a couple really great friendships and an incredible marriage with someone who doesn’t mind at all that I have to go to a psychiatrist or even a hospital sometimes. In fact, he takes me there.