Dear Bipolar

You came into my life when I was all of seventeen years old. You wreaked havoc on my simple and blissful existence. You overtook me, you controlled me. You unhooked my cart from the train of life. You ruined my plans, my dreams.

Panic attacks, manic episodes, and confusion became part of my life. Psychiatrists, medication, and therapy are words that joined my vocabulary. I spent many hours reading up about you, trying to control you, understand you, conquer you.

Worst of all, I live with the stigma of you. The fear of others’ reactions–fear of their ignorance and small-mindedness. I was rejected because of you. I was judged and deemed unworthy by people who refused to see past you–bipolar–and into the real me, the me that is still the same as it always was, full of life and endless potential.

Yet, I will not let you define me. I will not let you determine my state of mind, my destiny. I will accept you merely as part of my genetic makeup, a challenge Hashem gave me. Like any other challenge, you, bipolar disorder, are something that I can–and I will–rise above. As difficult as you are to deal with, you are something that can make me into a better person–you are a tool that I can use to flourish, explore, and change lives.

I used to think that you controlled me, but I’ve learned that, in fact, I control you. Because of you, I chose a career in counseling. Because of you, I dreamt new dreams: dreams of breaking stigmas and dreams of creating a better future for those affected by you.

I still live with a fear of you–the fear of the stigma attached to you–especially when entering shidduchim, where your name and diagnosis will be seen as a fault, as something “wrong” with me.

Although you will be with me my whole life, and people might judge or dismiss me because of you, I do not dismiss myself because of you. Rather, I know that you have challenged me, molded me, and created me into the person I am today.

So, bipolar, I would like to thank you for that.

— Chana

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