When I first started writing about mental illness and specifically bipolar disorder, I wanted to shed light on topics that affected me. I know I am not the only one in this world who has been met with life altering effects from an illness that does not have a cure. I cannot even begin to imagine what a cure would do to the many people who struggle with this chronic illness.
But the reality is we have no cure for bipolar disorder. With continued research there is always hope that one day others may not have to suffer with this relentless illness.
The good news is we do have more treatment options today than we did even five years ago. The medications are more tolerable and can help stabilize those of us who manage the mania and depressive swings. I only wish that it were not so hard for some people to seek treatment and know that life can get better when your mood swings aren’t controlling your daily living.
When I was working the other day a young man came into the store and ask me to help him. I started talking with him only to find out that like me, he too suffered with bipolar disorder. The more we talked the more apparent it became that he was unstable. I ask if he could get medical attention and he said he had access to care but didn’t believe in it.
My heart was breaking as he told me his story. He was sleeping in a local truck stop in the lounge at night because he was afraid to go to the local homeless shelter. He had been living on the streets for nearly four years. I told him that must be a tough life to which he replied, “It’s not bad living on the street if you have money.”
As it turns out this 24 year old young man had access to social security, but because of his state of mind he had ended up living on the street. He explained to me that he had recently gotten out of jail for making threatening comments to a police officer. He spent two months in jail not exactly a good place for receiving mental health treatment.
He left the store without buying anything and continued walking through the parking lot to other businesses. I thought to myself it is just a matter of time before he ends up back in the hands of law enforcement.
I wanted so much to help that young man, but there was nothing I could do except continue to raise awareness about mental illness. It caused me to pause and think about how fortunate I really am. Even though my life has been altered I have been blessed to have many safety nets in place and fortunate enough that my own mental illness did not take me down until much later in life.
By the time I was 24 years old, I had already walked into Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea as an Olympic Athlete; completed a college degree and was working for a Fortune 500 company. My journey included many struggles with mental illness but those struggles got worse as I got older and my illness worsened. Many people are not as fortunate as I have been and for a moment in time I realized that those of us who have been blessed have a responsibility to others who are less fortunate and may not have a voice.
I don’t know why any of us have to suffer from a mental illness, but I do know that until there is a cure we must continue to raise awareness that mental illness can be treated. Lives are precious and those who cannot help themselves are dependent on those of us who can make a difference.