Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday! It’s been about a year that I have been diagnosed with having bipolar 1 disorder. I constantly feel so proud of myself towards how far I’ve come. And on that note, my mother made a comment to me over the weekend. She said that since I have been diagnosed as bipolar, I live and restrict myself within that label. Disclaimer: she’s not saying this to provide constructive criticism, she’s saying it because she doesn’t believe anything is wrong with me so I’m living with a label for a disorder I don’t have.
However, I started thinking about it. I wanted to see things from her perspective as to how I live being labeled “bipolar”. When I tried to see how she could think I was stuck, I couldn’t. I’ve done so well for myself since my manic episodes. I held a job, which I was promoted to a management position. I’m finishing up my last college classes. I’ve applied to at least 50 jobs in a new city. I’m planning for my future. I have supportive friends. There’s no aspect I could see that would result from a negative label of being bipolar.
There was one thing I did think about and that was the benefit of being labeled. I honestly don’t mind being labeled bipolar because it helps me remain well and in control. I know I need to live within my mental health means. I can’t go out every night of the week until 5am like I used to. I can’t do recreational drugs with my friends. I used to make impulsive decisions like transferring colleges, picking up a new NCAA varsity sport, agreeing to move into apartments that were extremely expensive. Back then, I thought that was realistic and I was being spontaneous and exciting. Now I can say no to people who ask me to go out when I need to sleep, who take advantage of me as a friend or who make me feel belittled and ashamed. I can look at the big picture and plan for positive outcomes by ensuring that I’m putting myself in a position that I know I will do well given that I have bipolar 1 disorder.
Being labeled as having a mental illness isn’t a bad thing. It can serve as a guide to help you. It’s not fair to yourself to live in a way that will always result in failure. Just because I’m labeled as being bipolar doesn’t mean I’m not successful and doesn’t make me destined to be stuck. The label that’s given is a foundation of knowledge and knowledge is power.