Picture it: you’re a sixteen-year-old girl. You have a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, a loving family and you excel at school. It seems like the picture of perfection. I was that girl. Underneath the surface however my boyfriend and I were having communication problems, my best friend and I were barely speaking, my parents were at each other’s throats and my grades were rapidly dropping. It was into this chaos that my bipolar disorder symptoms began to develop and worsen. I stopped attending school and my boyfriend and I broke up. I began to cope in harmful ways and withdrew from my loved ones.    Despite the fact that mental illness has negatively impacted my life, there have also been positives. It has made me realize what’s important to me. I’ve learned that I am a motivated individual. I realized early that if I were going to get better I would have to take care of my health proactively. My family doesn’t always understand the depth and implications of my illness. I have to be my own advocate. This has shown me that I have to stand up for myself even if I do feel little inside. If I don’t then my health will suffer and those I love will suffer as well.  I consider how knowledgeable I am about my mental health to be my greatest asset. When I was first diagnosed as a teenager I read everything I could get my hands on in reference to bipolar disorder. It’s a constant process and I’m always learning. I have to know this illness and how it affects me personally so I can continue to get better.  It was awhile before I allowed myself to move on from my mistakes. I had to forgive myself for them and leave them in the past. I realized that I had a choice now even if I didn’t have a choice then and I could use it to change my future for the better.   I’ve been through a lot these past ten years. I have been in and out of the hospital due to my symptoms reoccurring. My initial diagnosis changed as it became clear that all my symptoms had not fully emerged. I had a brief psychotic episode in reaction to my grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. I temporarily left college.   Wellness to me is a balance of both the body and the mind. I focus on my mental health more often than my physical health, but both of them influence each other. Therefore, while continuing to work with my mental health, I am trying to get my psychical health sorted out.  Currently, I am preparing to return to college. My boyfriend and I are back together and stronger than ever. I realize now that the bond between my best friends and I are unbreakable. I have a great psychiatrist and therapist and my family is continuing to heal. I couldn’t ask for much more.

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