Being Known as Bipolar Mom

Bipolar MomSummer Beach Trip, August 2014

Back when I started my blog three years ago, I guess I had the right idea when it came to choosing a name. It was me in that moment. I was a mom with bipolar, and I wanted a website where other moms with bipolar and other mental illnesses would land. And regular people, too, for that matter. I wanted my site to show up in search results. I was determined to get my story out there to help others who were going through similar experiences. Determined to make an impact, no matter how small. My heart told me that if I could reach people through my writing, I could help change the way people viewed mental illness in our society.

I knew in the back of my mind that I was so much more than my illness, but I needed a platform. So I built it, giving it the most obvious name. I set out on a quest and had no idea where it would lead me.

My words appeared anonymously at first, I had to test the waters. I wrote just words and only shared photos where faces weren’t recognizable to protect our privacy. But blogging behind a mask felt disingenuous and a bit like I was hiding something. It didn’t take long for me to realize my story was one I needed to tell with my real name. I wasn’t ashamed of the fact I had an illness in my brain. I deserved to have a voice, an authentic one, and I was ready to share my real life through not only my stories, but also through real photos of me and my family.

You see, until we put a face on mental illness, the face of a person who has learned to manage their illness so that the illness doesn’t control them, society will continue to stigmatize those who live with mental health disorders because they don’t understand. They don’t understand what we go through on a daily basis, they don’t understand how hard we fight to educate ourselves on the best medicines and treatments for our conditions, and they don’t understand how to support a person who is struggling with a mental illness. They fear what they don’t know. They don’t know it’s possible for a person with a mental illness to fully recover and live a beautiful, productive, successful life.

We can begin to change this ignorance by simply being open. By sharing our story when we have the opportunity. By letting go of the shame and embarrassment we inherited when we were diagnosed. And by not being afraid of being treated differently because of having a mental illness, but instead looking at it as a chance to educate someone and make a difference.

These days when Mary Lambert’s song Secrets comes on the radio, me and my kids sing it loud and proud. It’s no longer a secret that I live with bipolar disorder. I am sometimes recognized as “Bipolar Mom” when at networking events and I’m okay with this. I am a mom with bipolar disorder and my mental illness allowed me to become an advocate. I’ve rediscovered my love of writing and my blog guided me to create This Is My Brave with my creative partner, Anne Marie Ames, providing a platform and community for others living with mental illness to do what I’ve done.

I couldn’t imagine life any other way. ¬†Happy Mental Illness Awareness Week, friends.

Today is National Depression Screening Day. Do yourself a favor and spend 2 minutes taking an online assessment of your mental health.

 

Comments

  1. One of my greatest fears when I started writing about my mental illness was how it would define me.

    I write under my own name and I’m glad I didn’t pick bi-polar dad or crazy whatever or something else. But I think if you own what you do, the wonderful way you do, then it’s great
    Lance recently posted…Bittersweet SymphonyMy Profile

    • I think in the near future I’ll likely create a new site for my blog and my writing. I had to start somewhere, and bipolarmomlife was that starting point. Thank you for reading, Lance.

  2. Jennifer, I think your honesty is brave and true to who you are. It reminds me that the first people who were open about being gay also lived with labels for a long time. Now, it is more likely that they are accepted for who they are. Someday, because of your courage and others like you, people with mental illness may be seen as who they are and not stigmatized. A real legacy!
    Jeanne recently posted…Welcome!My Profile

  3. I love the honesty with which you share yourself with us! I’m so happy to know you!!
    MrsTDJ recently posted…In Her Defense, I Defined My JourneyMy Profile

  4. I love your blog and your advocacy. I am a grandma with bipolar disorder, first diagnosed when my sons were 4 and 7. I live in the Chicago area but wanted to hop in my car and drive to Virginia when you and the group presented This is my brave! :)

  5. Break a leg Sunday Jennifer! Congratulations on your encore performance. Wish I could be there to see it again. Thank you so much for telling your Brave and all the wonderful people who share the stage with you. It is so important stomp out stigma and prejudice we with mental illness endure.

  6. “We can begin to change this ignorance by simply being open” Well said and this was a fantastic post to read! No one should be ashamed of a mental health issue. It’s a neurochemical imbalance, not a choice. i just finished a very interesting set of books called “Healing the Mind and Body” by Paul Corona MD (http://drpaulcoronamd.com/). This is a very factual and interesting series that is written in a way that I, as a patient, could understand. I like to do my homework when it comes to medication and new developments in the field of mental health, especially when it comes to my own health. The author has a lot of experience and knowledge when it comes to to the use of SSRI and the newer SNRI medications. This series was well priced and offered a load of information that I found very useful. I hope you will check it out and good luck in all that you do! You sound like a wonderful mother and a role model for others with bipolar

  7. I started out with my blog as anonymous, but like you I felt like it was necessary to be a real person out there. I haven’t posted my own pic yet on the site (but I need a beautiful one like you have, lol) Anyway I am still not as “out there” and honest as I want to be – I have written about that too. It was good to read this post. Thanks!
    Kathleen Bailey recently posted…Help!My Profile

  8. Carla Mengele says:

    What is your oil regimen to keep your Bi-polar in check?

  9. Hello. Your writings have been very inspiring to me! I’m 54 and have been off pharmaceutical bipolar med for almost a year now, but I have spiraled down into depression REALLY bad these last 6 months and I’m freaking out because I refuse those medicines but I have NO quality of life!! I never want to go outside or be involved with any people or places. I literally sleep, eat and cry EVERYDAY!! I AM IN DESPERATE SEARCH OF A NEW WAY OF LIFE THRU DIET AND NATURAL OIL…OH GOD I NEED HELP!!

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