I am a wife, mom, and grandma. I’m a writer and musician. I am a peer specialist in the behavioral health field. I am many things. But, I am not my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am #MoreThan mental illness. I am me! I live a full, productive, and blessed life. And so can you.
About a year ago, I created a mission statement to guide my writing: “to offer encouragement for life in a complicated world.” Why is this so important? Because, I want to support others the way I was, and still am, supported. Family and friends love me unconditionally, with patience and compassion. I trust them to be available for me in a time of crisis. They recognize that I am #MoreThan mental illness. But not everyone has this kind of support. Many people need encouragement. If we listen and observe the people in our lives, we may discover someone who needs to know we care. We can assure someone they are more than their diagnosis, whatever that may be.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. (Philemon 1:7, New International Version, The Bible)
#MoreThan Bipolar Disorder
One of the many challenges we face every day is living a healthy lifestyle. Eating on the go, working too many hours, staying up late, and other factors, affect our physical health and ability to cope with life’s surprises. I know this from experience! The good news is, in these cases we can make changes, as difficult as they may be. We can get back on the healthy track. Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over our bodies and minds. Sometimes an unexpected diagnosis takes our breath away. For me, it is bipolar II disorder.
After years of fluctuating between depression and anxiety, I was given the all-purpose diagnosis of a ‘mood disorder.’ It has only been within the past few years that I have been more accurately diagnosed with bipolar. Understanding my condition and getting the help I need have been crucial to accepting this part of my life. In January 2017, I found a tool that has helped me focus on my mental health. PatientsLikeMe provides opportunities to connect with other people, read relevant blogs, track my treatment and medications, and use a variety of tools. Approximately half a million members track more than 2,700 medical conditions. PatientsLikeMe introduced me to the I am #MoreThan affirmation.
PatientsLikeMe is “a free website where people can share their health data to track their progress, help others, and change medicine for good.” (Find out more at https://www.patientslikeme.com/about.)
#MoreThan My Condition
Taking responsibility for our health and well-being is extremely important. We first have to recognize there is hope for a better life and then take steps toward a more promising future by educating ourselves on our conditions. Along the way, we need to identify people who can give us support, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone to find them. It may take some time, but once we can say, “I am #MoreThan mental illness,” or cancer, or fibromyalgia, or any other diagnosis, we can show the world who we really are.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139:13-14, New Living Translation, The Bible)
You are #MoreThan ________. How would you fill in the blank?
Find out more about the #MoreThan project on the PatientsLikeMe website. You can also watch my vlog on YouTube.