My life has been defined by my ability to overcome adversity. For the most part I have faced my challenges head on even though I have been impacted by a periodicly disabling condition – bipolar disorder. I have lived with this disability all my life though you cannot see my wheelchair I assure you it is there.
My comparison is not to discount the great challenges both physical and mental faced by those who do need wheelchairs. It is more to visually demonstrate the impact of a disabling mental condition. The challenges of overcoming the affects of facing sometimes severe limitations can only be highlighted by what is obviously understood.
What is equally important is to acknowledge that some people can recover and live fulfilling lives despite their mental health condition. While others find the struggle overwhelming, limiting and relentless.
There was a period in my life where I saw the latter as my fate. Stripped of my dignity, confidence and self-esteem the journey back to living became the greatest challenge of my life.
What is inherent in my journey is the importance of overcoming adversity and the necessity of finding hope even in the darkest places.
Last night I had an opportunity to share some insights of what I have learned with a young man.
Lesson: If you do not treat bipolar disorder it will get worse!
“Bipolar disorder will destroy you if you do not get a treatment plan and follow it,” I said to a young college student who sat at a support group meeting and declared he was no longer taking medication. I did not hesitate to share those rather strong words. They are words I wish I had heard many years ago by someone who had walked in my shoes.
I also told him, “You can have a great life if you learn how to manage your illness.”
I aim to not rain on anyone’s parade but to give a dose of reality about mental illness. We don’t get to choose what are challenge is in life, but we do choose how we deal with it. Ignoring a mental illness is not going to make it go away. Serious mental illnesses, like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia will get worse over time if they are not treated.
I have been a person who almost lost my life because of untreated bipolar disorder. I believe my life purpose is to reach out and help other people not make the same mistakes. But it is my hardships and adversity that gives me incredibly valuable insights.
One of the greatest gifts is being in a position to help other people. In an intriguing way the person most helped is often the giver. I am blessed to share my insights and I hope you find value in my words.