In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d post a picture of my beautiful family from the year I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. It was a tough summer for everybody. We were able to fit in a vacation in August, shown above, in Pequot Lakes, MN.
Those wonderful babies are all supportive, empathic adults now and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They, and my husband, have buoyed me through a lot of difficult moments. I certainly had no idea, sitting in that chair, what my future held. I actually thought the worst was behind me. Ha! It was only the beginning of an odyssey into the world of mental illness.
It came, as all disease does, unbidden and unexpected. I kept it hidden, or at least I tried, in order to appear “normal.” Stigma is real and I feared discrimination in the workplace and in my daily life. I have seen an amazing change in the thirty years I’ve been immersed in the receiving end of mental health care. But there’s a lot further we need to go. I would urge anyone who is suffering in silence, for fear of being labeled or judged, to find the courage to seek help.
It’s taken me a long time to embrace my diagnosis. I want to live my life truthfully and unencumbered by the shame that seems to accompany mental illness. It’s time.