Episode 2: Bipolar Does Not Define Me

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Dear Lauren,

What an emotional roller coaster you have been on. Everything feels amplified, and it’s like you’re no longer in the driver’s seat. But you’re also wondering if these are just growing pains, and that you are becoming a new and better version of yourself. You aren’t entirely wrong about that. You’ve felt excited and emboldened by how outspoken you have become, not like the quiet, shy person you felt insecure about being. It feels like this is your time, that you are breaking out of your shell, that this is your awakening. And no one seems to be understanding that. I hear you. I see you.

But remember that you are not someone who cuts people down with your words. You are absolutely allowed to feel angry. However, this intense rage is different from what you have experienced. I know you want to speak up like you haven’t been able to before. You will learn to temper your words and how to advocate for yourself. But you know too that you’ve burned others with your fire. Also, as you have come to experience… unfortunately, what goes up must come down, and you have crashed hard. It does feel awful to not only lose the spark of energy and excitement that hypomania brought, but also to fall into the depths of depression that made it difficult to bring yourself out of bed for those summer classes and respond to friends trying to make plans.

Soon after these episodes, you almost wanted to give up on therapy and medication, especially after going to the emergency room from the side effects of one and having that experience be doubted by the psychiatrist, as well as having to start over again with new therapists. Knowing this, I am even more proud of you for pushing yourself to continue looking up providers when you moved back home, given how incredibly frustrating it was to learn how to navigate insurance on your own. Although it made your early experiences with treatment more difficult, I can understand being afraid to include our parents in the process and have those conversations about your mental health (which it continues to be at times).

But you did find the treatment team for yourself; they showed how consistent therapy and the right medications truly make a difference. They showed what quality mental health providers can look like, inspiring you to aim to bring that same level of care into your own practice as a therapist. I know you will never forget how it felt to be shamed by the pharmacy tech for being in tears over how much medication costed, not understanding what insurance information was needed to bring that cost down.

Lauren, you have so much to look forward to, as you work towards getting yourself healthy again. Four years later, you will get into graduate school for a doctorate in clinical psychology, and you will persevere through the challenges that are going to be thrown at you. Yet I would strongly encourage you to get your new treatment team set up as you transition into a new city, like you were advised, rather than waiting almost a year later when you are in absolute crisis.

You will find your people, as you work to seek out a community for yourself while holding onto the steadfast relationships with people who will be your life raft amidst the emotional storms brought on by mood episodes. You will meet your lifelong partner who accepts you unconditionally and supports you endlessly. Also, as much as the hypomania tries to convince you, you do not need to start the world’s biggest collection of candles and mugs to be special.

As for the question of whether your newfound voice is explained by your personality or your disorder… take heart that you will discover other aspects of yourself, as you remain open to change and strive to always learn. Part of this journey does involve growing pains, but you will become more and more comfortable with yourself. Remember that for you, bipolar disorder is something that you have, not something you are. And you will continue to learn to live with it, not be defined by it.

With much love,
Future Lauren

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I’m Living Proof created to share inspiration for young adults living with mood disorder. These archival posts represent the stories shared between 2015-2020.

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