The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Broken to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
My best friends and my family know about my bipolar brain, but being bipolar II is not something that usually comes up in cocktail conversation. I fret over this. Is there ever a right time to come out of the closet as bipolar? Will it affect my reputation, my ability to attract new clients, my work in the world? Yet I’m a better mom, partner, friend, coach, consultant, and business leader because of it. So if that’s true, why would I be afraid to come forward with my full identity?
There is an enduring stigma around mental illness. Those of us who suffer from brain storms often don’t want other people to know. We fear being vulnerable. We fear other people’s judgment.
But here is the truth: The disease that almost robbed me of my life has blessed me. My bipolar II brain has made me a better person. I am not saying that to be a Pollyanna. No, no, no. It took me 250 pages of this book to describe the sheer brutality of living with a broken brain, the demon that stalks hour by hour, the sadistic torturer who used to govern my nights and make my days feel like a seemingly bottomless Hell.
In some ways having bipolar II is like going to war. Some soldiers don’t come back. Others return with Post Traumatic Stress that they’ll never recover from. Some imagine suicide, and many go through with it. But then there are some who emerge from the horror and brutality of their experience with a new layer of depth and compassion and sense of service. These are the survivors, the ones who are able to remember what it was like under enemy fire and counsel those who suffer as they once did. Because in their bones, in their cells, they know what that feels like. They’ve been there. They can serve.
This is what it feels like for me. I’m a veteran of my own internal wars, a survivor of inner trauma. I bear the wounds of battle. I’m grateful to be alive to tell the tale.
Bipolar II has taught me emotional fearlessness, gratitude, discipline, and compassion. Instead of shame there is pride. And if you have a bipolar brain, I invite you to be proud too.