A few weeks ago, I told my therapist that I was finally starting to feel like myself again. It’s been five-ish years of living with diagnosed bipolar disorder, and for the first time in a few years, I’m starting to trust my own brain again.
Words like manic and depressed and post-traumatic stress disorder give me reasons that I never worried about for my choices, and for the past few years, I’ve found myself in a constant game of “Is this mania?” “Is this depression?” “Is this because everyone I love leaves me?” Every idea has been filtered. Heavily.
But bipolar disorder isn’t just something that impacts our brains, it also impacts our bodies. My medicine makes me gain and retain weight. It also makes me really hungry all the time. And so, every time I need a change in dosage, I face a change in weight. Feeling like my body isn’t entirely my own has been really hard. But this past year, I realized that I’d rather be stable than skinny and I’m good with that.
And so, when Modern Love decided to tell the story of a woman with bipolar disorder, I secretly really hoped it would be a love story with herself, because good lord is it easy to love everyone but yourself in a world that tells you that you’re broken.
The third episode of Modern Love begins with Lexi (Anne Hathaway), typing a bio for a dating website. she writes, “there’s something you should know about me,” and the next scene is her wearing sequins and fur at the grocery store at 8 AM looking for peaches.
Before she said anything at all, I knew what her secret was. I knew because it’s my secret too. What other kind of girl would wear sequins at the supermarket? It’s an introduction that felt like it accurately portrayed what mania feels like for me. Happy. Creative. Flirty.
One of the things that no one tells you is how damaging a mental illness (especially a chronic one) can be to your self-esteem. There have been times over the past five years that I’ve convinced myself that no one could love me and also love all of this shit that happens in my brain. It’s just too much.
There are times that I’m not great as a friend - times that I can’t come out of my house, times that I can’t be honest, and also times that I’m exhausting to be around. I know this.
But being honest about my diagnosis is one of the most loving things I can do. It shows my love for all the parts of me, and it shows that I love and trust my friends.
I wrote most of this post in the middle of some sense of stability with a tinge of mania – it’s not always all or nothing. But in this moment before I post it, I’m also reminded of the importance of the scene where Lexi lies on the bathroom floor – hoping for some semblance of grounding. Hoping to feel real again. Wishing she could find the courage to be honest.
The last scene is truly the start of a modern love story. The one where we learn to love our whole selves. The one where cracking open our chests and letting you peer inside feels better than any stability we hope to find. The one where we trade out our sequins for our hearts and hope to God that you’ll know what to do with them.
So, here’s to all of my bipolar siblings – I always remind us that we are light, but today let’s remember that our light comes from within us, not from the defenses we put up. And let’s find the courage to love every single part of us – the mania, the depression, the anger, the frustration, the tears, the stability, the joy and everything in between.