Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bipolar disorder is a blessing

Wow it has been awhile since I posted! Lately, I have been on a mental journey to accept the person I am. I know that sounds silly, but I tend to pick myself apart. I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to my appearance, feeling like a horrible chemist, and thinking I am not good enough to achieve lofty athletic goals (like KONA). I am hard on myself and I am sure others are too, but multiply those feelings by a million and that is my bipolar brain. HOWEVER, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I have read some really good articles that really have me feeling positive.

One I recently read really, really touched a nerve. It is called "The 6 Blessings of Mental Illness" and you can read it here OH IT HIT THE HEART STRINGS. The six blessings described were: 1. generosity, 2. spirituality, 3. empathy, 4. accepting spirit, 5. courage, and 6. creativity. The two that really stood out to me were generosity and courage. I found myself in tears reading about them (in fact getting through writing this is causing tears).

I am not sure this counts as generosity, but one of my ultimate goals is to inspire people, those who have a mental AND those who don't, and show them you can be successful no matter what. In recent year my focus has shifted to educating people about this disease and helping them understand. I am by no means normal, but I think I have succeeded in life so far. I may have taken the long road and struggled more than most, but I have accomplished a lot and that is important for people to see. Even more important, I need to see it. As I have grown, I have begun to realize this. I am a pretty good swimmer, I have a degree in biochemistry, I have a Ph. D. in Inorganic Chemistry (I am a friggin doctor!), I am a postdoc at a well respected national lab, and finally I have pushed my body to its physical limits by completing and Ironman. Point is, I have done all this while being "crazy" and I hope people are inspired by it. Yeah, I do it for myself, but lately I have focused on how this can help and inspire people to be better.

The second blessing I really related to was courage. There are days where I seriously am so unhappy with myself and I don't want to leave my house. On those days I am actually afraid to be at work because I feel like people are judging me. I know it sounds crazy and that's because it is. One way I cope with this is CHOOSING TO BE HAPPY. People don't see the dark moods because I have the courage to put on my happy face and it actually helps. I like to think that I can brighten someone's day by being in a good mood and that in turn makes me feel better. Another thing my bipolar has given me is that I am not scared to put myself out there. I set long shot goals and I have accomplished them before just by believing I can do it (and hard work). I said I was going to win a conference championship when I was 2 min slower than the winner in previous years, so I dropped those minutes and won. When I started grad school, a Ph. D. felt so out of reach, especially when I was first diagnosed. I was even told by someone in charge that "I don't think it is possible for you to do this with bipolar disorder." Besides being livid, I found the courage within to finish and prove him wrong. I did. I have other examples of the discrimination I have experienced (especially with dealing with DOE and my security clearance), but I have pretty much developed an "f-you" attitude to these ignorant people. I can and will do what I set out to do. Finally, my most recent long-shot goal is qualifying for the IM World Champs in Kona. I need to lose weight and really improve my running ability, but I will do it. If I don't believe I can, it won't happen. I know there are doubters about my ability to do it, but I always have doubters. Every single one was wrong.

So what has bipolar given me? It has made be a better person. I appreciate so many more things in life now. In fact, I think bipolar makes me unique! I am not afraid to let people know how it affects me and how it works. In fact, I think I have proven that mental illness doesn't have to break you, it just makes life more challenging.

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