Sometimes I feel as though my mental health issues rule my life. Bipolar can take over whenever it feels like it, sending me into spirals of mania or depression of its own will. I do lots of preventative things, like taking my meds, going to therapy regularly, sleeping appropriately, etc. But that doesn’t always keep the demons at bay. BPD is similar, because the rapid cycling moods and sensitivity can be more than I feel like I can handle. It makes it easy to write a blog about mental health because mine is constantly shifting, but it doesn’t make it easy to live in the world. It’s hard not to get my identity wrapped up in these diagnoses. For one, as someone with BPD I’m prone to an unstable sense of self, so sometimes identifying with a disorder is grounding, but it can become all encompassing. I want to remember that I am ME in all of my flawed glory. I am more than these disorders.
A diagnosis is a comfortable thing for most people because it can provide a road map through an otherwise non-navigable quagmire of emotions. If you know what things to anticipate you can prepare skills to handle them. But it’s also pretty easy to get sucked into a diagnosis and say “I am nothing but bipolar. It defines me.” This is especially true when the symptoms become overwhelming. When your mood cycles quickly or when the depression becomes debilitating or the mania gets you in trouble financially or otherwise, it’s hard not to feel ruled by the disorder.
But I am more than this. I am a student, hoping to be a nurse, a writer, a friend, a wife, daughter, a sister, a helping hand, a paddle boarder, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to lend, a cyclist, a reader, a Medievalist, a future Ukelele player etc. I try to remember that I am all the parts of me, not just my mental health. When I’m stable it’s much easier to do because nothing intrudes. I keep up my maintenance routine and I’m able to function without feeling disordered.
The trouble with being public about my mental health is I never know when someone is considering me in context of the disorders or just as a person. This is the main problem people encounter when dealing with mental health stigma: the fear that their personality will be subsumed by the perception of their disorders. It is a valid fear. Many people still say, “Oh it’s just because she’s borderline” instead of, “Maybe she has a point.” People are not just their issues, they are complex tapestries of traits that are interwoven to make them who they are. It is important to remember that mental illnesses are like physical illnesses: they affect but they do not define. I wouldn’t say to you, “You are cancer.” Just as you shouldn’t say, “You are only your bipolar self.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your diagnoses, just remember that YOU ARE MORE than your disorders. They are a part of you but they are not the whole thing.