A guest post by Annie Crippen
This is something I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. I’ve thought about it many times. I wanted to write it on the one year anniversary of my diagnosis and then again on the five year. What stopped me? Plain and simple, fear. I was scared people would treat me differently. Scared it would affect people’s perception of me as a nurse, a friend, or as a mom. Scared people would trust me less, laugh about me behind my back, question my actions and call me crazy. Scared of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Two things have happened recently that have given me the courage I needed.
First, I found this website. “This is My Brave” has become a beacon of hope to me. Reading other people’s stories empowered me and helped me not feel alone.
Secondly, a dear friend of mine was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She has been so open and honest about her journey. I am so proud of her courage!
Some of you might be wondering why I need to write this. Why does everything have to be public?
I am writing this because I have never been more ashamed of something than of the fact that I have bipolar disorder. How terrible is that? When people come to my house, I run to close the medicine cabinet to make sure no one sees my meds. I can’t even see a doctor or counselor in my town because I am afraid people who I work with might find out I have bipolar. This is a problem! It has to do with our culture and what we’ve all been taught about mental illness. The only way to change this is to talk about it.
I am writing this because after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, although I was surrounded by love and support from my family and friends, I never felt more alone. I wished so badly that I knew just one person who had been through what I was going through and came out on the other side, but I knew no one.
I’m here to say I have bipolar disorder. I am managing my illness and living a happy, successful life. If just one person reads this and feels less alone, then it will be worth it to me.
I am writing this because I want to be a champion for people with mental illnesses. I want to fight stigma. I want to lead a support group for people with bipolar disorder. I want to speak out about the broken mental health care system and help change it. I cannot do any of those things if I can’t be open about having bipolar disorder.
So here it is. In October 2010, I was hospitalized during a severe manic episode and diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. I have been dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was 13. I will have to take medication for the rest of my life. I see a therapist regularly. I have good days; I have bad days.
Bipolar disorder is just one part of me, and it doesn’t change or diminish any of the other wonderful parts of me.
Thanks to all the amazing people in my life whom I’ve shared my diagnosis with that have been accepting, kind, and supportive to me. It’s because of you that I have the courage to come out of the mental illness closet.
About the Author: Annie is a wife and a mom to two wonderful kids. She works as an RN at the hospital in her hometown. Her favorite hobby is spending time with her family and friends.