By Rebecca Lombardo
I know you’ve been through a lot in the short amount of time you’ve been on this earth. I know you’re keeping secrets and I know you’re scared and confused. It’s okay for you to feel that way. It’s okay to have a bad day or even many bad days. You’re allowed. And please know that I’m not trying to scare you when I say that you’re going to have a lot of bad days.
Unfortunately, what they’ve just diagnosed you with isn’t going to go away and it’s not just some phase. You have a disease—kind of like how diabetes is a disease. It’s just that yours is a disease of the mind, and it’s often highly unpredictable.
You have bipolar disorder. I guess that explains a lot.
You’ll have to deal with this for the rest of your life, and I need you not to panic. You have a lot of work to do. You’re about to attempt to win a battle inside your brain every single day for the rest of your life. Sometimes, all you’ll be able to do is sleep and sometimes you won’t sleep for days. You’ll see doctor after doctor and try what will seem like 1,000 medications, but in between all of that, there will be good times. Your life is not over—it’s just beginning.
There are millions of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It seems like nearly every day a celebrity comes forward to admit that they have struggled with it, just to let us know we can still achieve greatness. You can and will get through this with grace and dignity, even if you stumble a bit at first trying to find your path.
The worst part about being diagnosed with a mental health condition is the ignorance and stigma you’ll face daily. There will be people who will walk out of your life or treat you like trash because you have a disease of the mind. A disease you didn’t ask for or contract doing something unsafe or illegal—it’s just how your brain is wired. But some people may never understand that or even believe it, no matter how hard you try to explain it.
Don’t let their ignorance tear you down. You have enough work to do just fighting the negative voices in your head. You will struggle, there is no question about that. Unfortunately, at times the pain will seem unbearable, and it will get to you no matter how steady you think you are. That is when it is the easiest to give up, but you can’t do that. Not now. Not ever.
Please, whatever you do, don’t hurt yourself in any way. You may feel alone at times, but you are never truly alone in this fight. There is always a light around the corner. There is always tomorrow.
Despite your struggles, there will be moments where you shine. And in time, when you’re more self-aware, your bad days will only amplify the good. You’ll learn to appreciate those moments even more because you fought to get there. I promise you: You can do this.
You won’t have all the answers all the time, but in time, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. It will be a struggle, but if you weren’t a fighter, you wouldn’t be here now. I’ll be here waiting.
Rebecca Lombardo is 44 years old and has been happily married for 15 years. She lives in Michigan with her husband and cats. She is a published author, a Huffington Post blogger, contributor for The Mighty, and a podcast host. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. She has battled that as well as several other conditions for over 20 years. In 2013, she attempted suicide. Grateful that she survived, she decided to tell her story in the hopes that she could help others choose a different path.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
In a crisis? Call or text 988.
Find Your Local NAMI