Despite experiencing my first manic episode at the age of fourteen, I was not diagnosed with bipolar I until a few months before my eighteenth birthday. The diagnosis came as a shock to most of those who knew me—I was a bright and bubbly. I was involved in activities and had a circle of friends. My manic exuberance was part of my charm and the my depression occurred mostly in the summer, so it was easier to hide.

I felt very dismissed and like a burden when I explained my diagnosis and told people what I was doing about it. I was shamed for medication. I was pressured to hide it from family members. I graduated in June and decided to take some time off before going to college. I began experiencing psychosis and hallucinations more intensely than I had before. I was frightened and unsure of what to do. I acted on the suicidal ideations that I had dealt with for the eight years prior. I will spare the dirty details but on December 29, 2014, I decided to end my life. I woke up in a hospital bed a few days later. I was in the ICU. I was alive. I cried and my family took it as I was scared that I was in a place I didn’t know. But I cried because I had survived and I did not plan to.

After eleven days in the hospital, I went home. I promised that I would dedicate myself to recovery but it was a lie. I wasn’t ready. I sat at home and felt numb to the world around me. I turned nineteen in April and decided that it was time. I determined that I was worth recovery. It seems to be such a simple concept but it took time to come to it. I started slowly. I got a job and a month later, I ended a toxic relationship. A few days after the break up, I began college. It was there I began to thrive.

I prided myself on meeting deadlines and participating in discussions. I pushed myself because I was ready to achieve more. I focused on caring myself as a whole. I worked on creating new healthy relationships and mending the old, as well as letting go of the people who served as a toxins. I attended therapy regularly and opened up. I talked about my mood swings and anxieties, things that once seemed impossible. I claimed my bipolar. It was something I did not want to hide.

In January, I made the plunge and moved away from home. I trekked two hundred miles north of Connecticut and nestled myself along Lake Champlain. I took a chance on myself to achieve something greater. I had never envisioned myself going away to school and I was doing it. I threw myself into my studies and the clubs. I talked with someone who helped me set up academic accommodations. I pushed myself to be social and found myself among other people like me—the misfits and the outcasts. I was determined to make it work.

Depression set in but luckily, I was prepared and found a therapist who provides me with a safe and comfortable place to work on myself. I spoke honestly and openly about my struggle with bipolar. With my teachers, we worked together to make the class work for me. I connected with one of my teachers who encouraged me to write about it. We had insightful discussions that encouraged me to pour words onto his page. For his class, we were asked to write  a scholarly personal narrative. I told the story of my suicide attempt candidly. I discussed what led up to it and used academic papers and psychology studies to better understand what had happened. I decided to share it with my class and after reading, I felt strong. I was not greeted with looks of pity. Instead I was given hugs and warm smiles. I was told that I belong and for once I agreed.

I would not say I am happy now but I am in recovery. It is possible to be both a work in progress and a masterpiece. For now, I maintain a long list of goals. I want to help other people with mental illness realize that their story does not have to end so soon. I want to better my health all around. I want to own a business. I want to share my story. At twenty years old, I will say that I am where I never thought I would be but I know that I am exactly where I should be. Life is not perfect but neither am I. I was given a second chance at life and for that I am grateful. I survived.

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