A personal story of mental illness from all sides of this country fence.
We have reached a fork in the road where the road to compassion, understanding and recovery is stronger than ever and the courage to explore and express impresses upon us. I took the opportunity to invite my wonderful husband to create this new blog post with me and together we have decided to document his and our family’s journey in relation to the rippling effects of mental illness, namely Bi Polar Disorder Type II: depression, anxiety, OCD, social phobia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mania in conjunction with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
This blog post is an honest recount from a beautiful man, who was once broken but has found the courage and the strength to piece himself and his life back together. I am very blessed and privileged to partake in this new journey and honoured to write with him as a partnership.
Below is his story he first wrote a few years back – when he came out of the shadows and into the light.
Tonight we attended our son’s school for a social dinner, to enable prep parents the opportunity to get to know each other. Maree and I sat with Bill* and Jill* (names have been changed to protect identity), parents to one of son’s fellow prep and new friend. As I always do when I meet new people for the first time I greeted them as such.
“ Hi. I’m Frank and I am Bi – Polar! “ When I meet people for the first time in a social situation I always like to let them know that I am Bi- Polar, and if necessary which phase I am in, if any. I like to tell people that I am Bi Polar so they understand where I am coming from, so any comments they may find rude or may be taken aback, they are in a better position to understand. In saying what I am saying, I am not using Bi Polar as an excuse for what I have said or otherwise but rather to allow people to understand that when I am in a particular phase I am not always “there” and therefore speaking from the position of someone without a mental illness – it’s the condition speaking.
Each person with Bi Polar has different symptoms and different circumstances however I think, even with a mental illness and this is how I feel, we have the choice as to whether we stand up and say “this is something I am going to control, this is something I am going to own, and am not going to allow this to control me OR they can allow it to take over their lives and lose themselves within the condition and lose all sense of identity.
I then continued to discuss my disorder with Bill*. I told him about my swings, my highs and lows. my connection to Native American spirituality and how it helps to ground me. I highlighted my skill/ability to identify and acknowledge my different phase and when I am going through them, as well as the skill/ability to identify the different modes, frames of mind etc during phase swings and to be able to redirect them or for the lack of a better word control them, (sometimes a few of them slip through the net, this is par of the course)!
In explaining to Bill* that when in any of the two phases I do not let the hyper-mania or the depression control me and that I control it, even when in the worst part of the depression to the point of struggling to get out of bed, Bill* said that he was impressed at my ability to own my condition and not allow it to own me. He also acknowledges that my ability to be so open about my condition was a battle won! It has taken time to be able to open about my Bi-Polar.
I have found that in telling people about it enables me to have the strength to fight the daily fight. I would like to say that one day the war would be over, but alas this is a war that never ends. I like to view my Bi – Polar as a life long friend, something that will be with me for the rest of my life. Something that I learn more about and helps me to learn more about myself each and every day, and some days has out stayed its welcome. I wake up each day and put one foot in front of the other, come what may, with the support of my wife and kids. Ever since I was diagnosed I have been of the mind own the condition and to not let my condition own me or in fact, own us as a family. My Bi-polar does not define who I am as a human being! I am not my Bi-Polar, and my Bi-Polar is not me. Bi-Polar is a condition that I have. Bi- Polar is a life long partner. My life long friend.