In a full-blown manic state, I felt this overwhelming sense of urgency, one which was related to helping others, specifically those with mental illnesses and suicidal ideation. As someone who has experienced debilitating bipolar disorder symptoms, including obsessive thoughts of a suicidal nature, I felt strongly empathetic to those who have gone and continue to go through similar pains. At first, my mania was pretty euphoric: I felt like I was capable of what I labeled a “Mental Health Revolution”, creating a cultural shift in how the public perceives those who are “mentally ill”. I wanted to fight stigma, allow those with mental illnesses to be open about their conditions without shame.
As my mania transitioned to more of a dysphoric type of episode, my obsessions created an alarming level of panic. I have to help these depressed people! I have to make sure they don’t end their own lives! If I don’t figure out how to cure suicidal ideation, more people will die and that blood will be on my hands! It was an irrational level of guilt, desperation, and obsession that drove me into a whirlwind of anxious researching, frantically written notes to psychology professors, and eventually my second in-patient hospitalization.
It was so easy for me to take on the role of helping others. However, it felt like such a step backwards to be forced to seek help myself. I wanted complete control. I did not want to be forced to stay in a hospital. I did not want to be forced to take medications which would stabilize my mood. I did not want to be told that my brilliant, racing brain was not the mind of a genius, but actually a delusional, dysfunctional brain instead. It took me a very, very long time to accept that it is not weakness to have bipolar disorder, nor is it weakness to seek help from others in order to better manage the condition and get my life back.
As a mental health advocate, I want to be a good role model for others with mental health conditions. A key role is not only to be one that offers help, but one that accepts the help and support of others. Just as I am not ashamed of my condition or my mental health advocacy, I should not be ashamed to say that it’s okay to ask for help.
**Photo credit: Paint The Carolinas