I've been open about being bipolar for over ten years now. Sometimes this has been good to me, it has led me to new friends and relationships, and I've gotten feedback that my story has helped others. Sometimes this has been bad for me. I've heard through backchannels that some business partners worry about what it would be like to go into business with someone who is bipolar.
But I'm making the intentional decision to go with the positive over the negative. If this means that I lose some possible business partnerships, so be it.
I was first diagnosed with bipolar illness at age 25. I would go days at a time with tiny amounts of sleep, I wrote prolifically, I had grandiosity, I was easily irritated by people that I perceived as not being "fast" enough, and I was very impulsive. During depressive episodes, I spent days on the floor, and had panic attacks, fearful that night would not turn into day. This was all damaging to my relationships and my health.
Over the years, I learned to mostly control my illness, through therapy and meds, and through the assistance of my closest friends and family who look out for me.
Meditation practice and mindfulness exercises have given me "muscle memory" to "respond not react". Things don't bother me as much now as when I was in my 20s. I am generally a happy, optimistic person, and when I do get angry at someone or something, it subsides very quickly these days.
In the end, I feel no need to hide this part of me. The more I know and can acknowledge about myself, the more connected I am with all of myself and others, and that has become far more important than trying to control my image. Secrecy and shame are the enemy of healing.
I am now working to create Bipolar Boston, a peer network of people in the Boston area with bipolar illness, so we can support each other with stories and meetings.
My hope is that people living with bipolar disorder see my story and others and no longer feel the need to hide their diagnosis. People managing bipolar disorder can lead successful, meaningful lives. I'm proof of that. By working together to combat stigma, we can make our world a place where all people living with mood disorders have a fair shot at living their best life.