The Unimaginable gifts from bipolar disorder

I’m a sucker for Disney movies and I must admit that I recently had a brief love affair with Frozen’s Elsa.  Here we have a princess most definitely at odds with herself, kicking up an eternal snowstorm and freezing everyone out along the way.  Brrr…

Picture of woman holding gift box in her cupped hands
Photo by Kim Stiver on

The gifts of belonging

Bipolar disorder nearly snuffed out my soul.  So it might sound surprising, but I have come to see that this psychiatric illness has bestowed meaningful gifts upon me.  If I were still symptomatic, I’m sure I’d feel differently but I have the lucky luxury now of living in a stable space.  Having bipolar disorder allowed me to become a member of a psychiatric club (though I did pay my entrance fees with some mood swings).  I now have kindred spirits who help ease my loneliness and lessen my sense of isolation.  These connections affirm what I already learned long ago as a psychiatrist: we humans can only be our healthiest and truest selves by engaging with each other.  We simply can’t do it alone.  At some point you’re going to need to come down from that mountaintop, Elsa.

The gifts of navigating through adversity

I now know that i can navigate my way through diversity, because of my bipolar disorder. I forced myself to get out of bed when I thought I couldn’t. There were many impulses to harm myself and I resisted those. I functioned when it might have been understandable for me to collapse.  It’s clear to me now that I see a person in the mirror that I admire and this self-affirmation has been a much-needed antidote for my feelings of shame. 

The gifts of love

Most important, bipolar disorder allows me to experience the larger and deeper things that matter the most in my life: decency, honesty, compassion, forgiveness and humanity. I have the love of others and I love others in ways that I never have before. This is the most precious gift of all. I am truly blessed.  Bipolar disorder has become integral and essential to who I am.  It changed my identity by revealing my best and truest self.  And what about that older me?  I “Let it Go”.

Has living with a mental illness been a blessing? a curse? both?

Read more about the other gifts I have learned from patients by clicking here.

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