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“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks. March 30 is World Bipolar Day, so it made perfect sense to me to share an update on living with Bipolar 2 Disorder. Well, more accurately, living knowing that I have Bipolar 2.

I’ve shared the good, bad, and ugly in my life in some shape or form for the past 20 years. When I opened up about my diagnosis in November, it surprised me to hear from various connections about their personal experiences with bipolar 2. Not everyone wants to share their story publicly and that’s perfectly fine. I share my life because it helps me feel connected and like I always say, if there’s one person out there who feels less alone because they come across my experiences, then it’s worth it.

The first thing I did after I got my diagnosis was to look for stories about others to see how they live their lives.

Bipolar 1 is the most common, therefore there are a lot of personal stories out there, written, spoken, and depicted in pop culture.

“(I’m) a human who’s had her fair share of challenging and unhappy experiences. Over time, I’ve paid attention, taken notes and forgotten easily half of everything I’ve gone through. But I’ll rifle through the half I recall and lay it at your feet.”

Carrie Fisher

It felt a little frustrating to not have examples I could point people to when they asked me about bipolar 2. There are links to articles about the difference between 1 and 2, but that still doesn’t feel like enough.

I can’t point to a medical article and have people in my life understand what it’s like for me at a particular moment.

When I’ve talked about anxiety or depression, it’s been easy to get across my mood and struggles. It feels like people have a frame of reference for what it’s like to experience those feelings. But not when it comes to bipolar disorder.

I found this graphic on Instagram, which helps me express the bipolar spectrum a little better. My experiences range from hypomania to severe depression.

Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know why I couldn’t just go to sleep or why my brain wouldn’t shut up. It felt like I couldn’t do anything right and any time I had something positive in my life, I would try to destroy it. I never felt in control, so I thought choosing to be reckless somehow gave me back that sense of control. Turns out, that wasn’t always my choice either. I constantly felt like a shit person because I was so incredibly self-destructive. I didn’t understand what was going on in my head, so I lashed out at people in my life. But mostly, I lashed out at myself.

Here’s the thing about mental illness that we all know but don’t express often: It’s so incredibly personal. My brain chemistry, life experiences, day-to-day life – everything creates a unique experience for me.

Hypomania can be a pretty enjoyable state, really,” Dr. Bearden says. A person’s mood can be elevated, they may have a lot of energy and creativity, and they may experience euphoria. This is the “up” side of bipolar disorder that some people with the condition actually enjoy—while it lasts.

For living with bipolar 2, it’s honestly scary some days. Although I feel more in control of my triggers and my medication is helping, it’s literally out of my control. Because of where I am on the spectrum, most of my days are more mixed than clearly defined. It’s not an even split of 3 days of being depressed and 3 days of being hypomanic. I’m lucky in that my hypomania is on the mild side compared to those who suffer from severe manic episodes, but it turns out my depression is actually quite deeper. I now refer to them as #badbraindays because sometimes, I’m too exhausted to find the words to explain the range of emotions I’m feeling waking up after a night of vivid nightmares, or when I’m having a good day and in the middle of writing an email, my brain flips a switch.

Even while writing this post, it feels like I can’t quite get a handle on the words. You can imagine how fun that is for a writer.

I’m #BipolarStrong because

➡I keep showing up to life.

➡I’m getting better at expressing my needs.

➡I’m not letting my emotions control me, but I’m not trying to suppress them either.

➡I’m owning my narrative even when I’m not in control of my brain.

➡I’m recognizing toxic triggers and getting better at removing them from my life.

➡I’m going to keep sharing my story and do my best to help others who may be feeling alone.

Here’s the thing.

This isn’t going away. This is my life. I’m in a constant and exhausting battle.

But I’m here.

World Bipolar Day is on March 30 in honor of Vincent Van Gogh.

Title quote attribution: Vincent Van Gogh

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