This I Believe

ASHLEY - SAN DIEGO, California
Entered on December 4, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I have bipolar disorder.

I carry this disorder with me every day. Living with bipolar disorder is much like living with other medical illnesses. The day-to-day job of managing bipolar disorder belongs to me. But I am not alone.

There were nights I was not able to sleep, and then there were days when that’s all I did. The most frustrating thing was that all the tools I had been using for years to deal effectively with my life just didn’t work. I tried to tell myself that, “this too shall pass,” or, “look, you’ve handled worse than this.”

I finally got to a place where I was seriously considering suicide, not because my life was so terrible, but because I did not have enough energy to get through the day, lots of days. It was like I was in this huge black hole and there was no life and no hope.

I’ve had about one year of counseling and personal work untangled. The current problem I am dealing with is that I have the lifetime habits of living like a manic depressive — the mood swings are treated, but the habits are still there. I am not used to routine — I’m used to running until I drop. I’m used to over-committing myself in seven directions from Sunday, because I have to use the energy while I have it — I know I’m going to crash. After seven years, I still emotionally fear that one day my feet will disappear out from under me and I will fall back into that Big Black Hole. Sometimes, in spite of everything, it does. So everything has to be done now.

I believe in having to work with a counselor to make myself slow down, take time for self-care, build a routine.

Relationships can be hard at times. I get tired of people judging how I act. I get tired of my constant worrying. I just want to get away from them all. I am supported with proper medicine, therapy, support groups, family, and friends.

I believe I must manage my condition carefully. It’s like having an illness such as diabetes or heart disease. It’s important to take some time for myself and to do things I enjoy. Isolating myself too much may not help and having trusted family and friends who care about you is key.

I believe my bipolar disorder does a lot to make me who I am. On the other hand, it is not who I am. It does not define me like it once did. When I joked with a friend about how I was speaking today about being crazy, she said Ashley, “I know you’re crazy, but there are many more things than just one that make you who are, and they all count.” You know what? I couldn’t agree with her more. Yes, at the end of the day, I’m still bipolar, but with the support I’ve received along the way, I’ve changed so much and I’m in a position where I can stand on this stage and tell you my story knowing how great the present is and how great the future can be.

This I believe.

Ashley Weiss