As we all know, receiving a Bipolar diagnosis can feel as if a bomb was set off in your life. Often we are diagnosed in the midst of, or in the aftermath of a horrifying, life altering episode. We try to survive and endure the episode while reeling from this new information about ourselves. (“Information” about ourselves is a hefty understatement, wouldn’t you say?)
This was me. My brain burnt to ash, my heart broken, my view of myself and my past altered forever. I was alone, lost, and extremely confused. Thoughts careening around in my head. I had never known anyone with Bipolar disorder. I was also ashamed. My ideas about Bipolar disorder were formed by the stigma rich media. I saw it as something menacing, deplorable, and disturbing.
My idea of a person with Bipolar disorder looked something like a character from the movie, Girl Interrupted. To me it conjured up the image of someone disheveled, unruly, and completely unhinged. I was blown away by the reality that Bipolar can look like Therese Borchard. The attractive, eloquent, witty, young mom next door.
Therese Borchard was there for me in the aftermath of my worst episode and diagnosis. Just to be clear, she does not know me. I have not met her in person. But I do know her because she is courageous enough to allow herself to be known. At this time she had the blog, Beyond Blue. She is now the founder of The Beyond Blue Foundation. An organization that is truly doing good in the world.
She had dozens of videos on YouTube featuring everything from cognitive behavior therapy techniques, to humor, to a precious glimpse into her own raw emotional states. I also had the privilege of buying a hard back copy of her book, Beyond Blue, when it first hit the shelves.
I learned more from her than from any therapist or Pdoc. I was encouraged more by her than by any therapist, Pdoc, friend, or family member. She helped me understand, process, manage, and laugh at this disorder. I needed someone who understood. I now have the joy of knowing many other Bipolars in the online community. Therese was the first. She was my introduction to the real world of Bipolar disorder. Not the DSM, not the brochures, not the articles titled “What is Bipolar Disorder?” but the real Bipolar disorder. The Bipolar disorder that only all of us Bipolars know.
I heard my story in her story and I saw she that knew what it felt like to deal with this illness. I only knew this because she (metaphorically of course) grabbed stigma by the balls and said “I don’t care what you could do to me. People need to hear this.” She was not a blogger, she was an activist. She is one of our best.
Many times she shared her vulnerability regarding her out of the closet status. She expressed that it was not easy for her to expose herself in such a way. She kept doing it because she knew it mattered to someone out there. I can’t thank her enough for her courage and bravery, for the risks that she took, for carrying on despite nasty comments. And most impressively, for reaching out to help all of us while bearing the storms of her own illness.
All of it mattered to me. I am here now adding my voice to the cause in a Bipolar pay it forward.
I am only this brave because of Therese.
Maybe someday I will be as brave as her. Maybe.
Thank you, Therese!
Read about roses and Therese’s struggle with treatment resistant depression here.