If I had a cold, you might bring me chicken soup. If I broke my leg, you might run errands for me. If I had cancer, you would be at my hospital bedside. But, I don’t have any of those illnesses. I have bipolar disorder and the illness is in my brain. You can’t see my brain, so it’s easy to discount my suffering.
My friends and family know of my disorder, but I don’t think they know the full extent of my pain. They know it’s serious. They know it makes me feel bad. They know that I can be in a lot of mental pain. It’s hard for people who don’t have a mental illness to understand the terror it is to have one. Mental illness can kill you. Suicide is the 3rd cause of death for people between the ages of 15 -24.
I had several suicide attempts. It’s not that I want to die. I want to live, but I can’t live with the dread of waking up every morning wondering if today I can get out of bed. That may seem silly to most people. “Just get out of bed” people say. But for me, getting out of the bed in the morning is a work. Can I make it to the shower? Things people take for granted, take a lot of effort for me on most days. The days I get out of bed might be the highlight of the day. What use to seem normal, now is drudgery. So I have to fight to get out of bed, to take a shower, to comb my hair. These are my good days. Why do I fight?
I fight to live. I fight because I don’t want to die. I look at the photos I have taped to my walls to remind me I’ve had good days, when my brain tells me all is lost. I have to visually see the photos to put my mind at ease, and because I’ve had good days, I can tell myself more good days are waiting for me. I fight because no matter how painful my days may seem, death is the permanent. There is no coming back.
I fight by taking my medication, seeing my doctor and my therapist. I fight by going to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) support group meetings. I can process my good and bad days with people who have gone through what I’m going through.
I fight because I want to see my daughters graduate from college. I want to be at there on their wedding day. I want to see my grandchildren (which I have 4) grow up and give them the love and support only a grandmother can give. So I fight.
All is not lost. Find your reason to fight. It helps you build resilience. It gets you through the minutes, hours, days where your mental illness tries to consume you. Find your reason to fight. Find your reason to live, even when you’re taking baby steps toward healing. Fight with all you’re might.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or feel you are in crisis, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room. I can tell you it works. Now fight!