Having bipolar disorder has not made for an easy life. But within my pain and struggles there have been transformative gifts, that I honestly wouldn’t change it if I could. It has offered me the opportunity to create a meaningful life, the ability to feel compassion for others, and allowed me to discover the unshakable joy and gratitude that comes from having survived deep suffering. At 37, I am more fulfilled than I ever dreamed possible. In fact, I was certain I wouldn’t live past 30. For many years, I wondered if I was born to suffer. To be alive, healthy, hopeful, and truly happy is nothing short of a miracle for me.

Around age 13, I started to experience extreme mood swings that got worse over time. Within one day I would be giddy and supremely confident, then crash suddenly into worthlessness and despair. This split made it easy to live a double life: one was the smile I showed the world, and the other was a sharp, suffocating, secret darkness.

My secret self escaped with food binges began a decade-long battle with self-harm. My world continued to grow smaller and darker, culminating in two suicide attempts. Both times I lived and wondered why I was forced to stay here and be tortured. Desperate for a lifeline, I started seeing an irresponsible, cruel psychiatrist who further injured me in my vulnerable state. When I quit my poorly prescribed medications, I flew straight into my first real manic episode. I spun high into the stratosphere, and then like clockwork came the sudden, terrifying drop. This spurred years of maniacal ups and devastating downs, and I became completely disheartened and hopeless. Finally I was diagnosed correctly, but it took years to secure the right medication, psychiatrist, therapist, and self-care routine to create a stable foundation.

Discovering what I needed to keep balanced and receiving my therapist’s unconditional support built up my confidence brick by brick. To truly heal, I had to address my embarrassment for my very visible breakdowns, grieve the years I lost, love the part of me that felt defective, and learn how to trust myself again. I had to accept my diagnosis and its limitations, but also be willing to live bigger than that. My mental health condition forced me to question what happiness meant for me personally. If I wasn’t meant to die, how could I make my life worth living? I started opening up to the idea that maybe my life had been saved for a greater purpose. From this new lens, I decided to become a therapist so that my experiences could be used to help others. This felt both exciting and terrifying. I took a risk on myself, giving school one more chance. My success there was an incredible surprise, and I finally started to believe in myself.

Now four years into my therapy practice, I consider each day with clients a precious gift. Guiding others to find peace and empowerment, no matter how painful the circumstances, is my calling. The ever-changing nature of bipolar disorder makes you an expert at the art of riding life’s ups and downs, and it also cracks your heart open to allow you to love more fully. Maintaining balance and weathering mood disturbances will always be a part of my life, but this diagnosis does not have to be a life sentence. Instead, it can be an invitation to see the world in a beautiful, meaningful way, and to share your unique vision with others.