I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about five years ago. Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme highs (mania or hypomania) and extreme lows (depression).
I’ve always experienced periods of intense productivity and energy coupled with periods of depression. I was student body president of my high school, ran a marathon in college, did great on the LSAT and thrived in the fast-paced environment of public defense. Coupled with these “high” periods were also periods of depression, however. I was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my second child was born and I became severely hypomanic.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on any one task and colors and sounds all felt louder and brighter. It felt like my brain was on fire. Over the past five years I’ve learned to manage my illness through a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle choices and giving back. I am religious about taking my prescribed medication, despite the negative side effects.
The medication causes “brain fog”, which made it difficult to go back to work as an attorney. I can still read, it just takes me a lot longer to get through difficult material. The medication also causes weight gain, which I try my best to temper with exercise and good eating habits. Another way I cope with my diagnosis is by trying to help others living with mental illness.
I am very involved in the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which serves and advocates on behalf of people living with mental illness. I help facilitate two support groups and serve on the Board of my local chapter. I wouldn’t choose to have bipolar disorder, but I’m lucky to have access to the resources that I have and I’m committed to reducing the stigma surrounding the illness.