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Bipolar is My Gift

By: Kristen Fitzgerald

I hope by reading my essay, others will have a better understanding of bipolar as well as the stigma which can greatly affect the lives of those living with it.

1st · Adult Writing (2020)

Bipolar Type 1 is My Gift

Depression got the best of me, an honor student, my sophomore year of college. I failed that semester because I couldn’t get out of bed to take my exams.

I quickly discovered the high that running gave me. I ran for 10 years… to SURVIVE.

I pushed myself physically and academically to the point of self destruction. Training for a half marathon, I developed a stress fracture. Within two weeks of not running, I had my first manic psychotic episode.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 while inpatient at a psychiatric hospital. I returned to my job only to find I’d been removed from my position. I learned that Bipolar was worthy of shame.

My psychiatrist and I decided to withdraw my application to medical school and apply to PA school. Less years of training meant less chance of psychosis, lessening the chance of anyone finding out I had bipolar…because stigma in the medical profession is rampant! Having a diagnosis of Bipolar would likely cost me my career. Though I had three psychotic episodes in PA school, I still graduated with an honorable GPA.

For 11 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I lived in fear of someone finding out my diagnosis. Fear of losing my career as a PA. Two years ago, I stopped living in fear. I stopped pretending. I disclosed my diagnosis with a Facebook Live video.

I’m proud to say, my last psychotic episode was almost ten years ago.

I don’t wish my darkest days of depression on anyone. But on my highest days, I experience joy more intensely, love more deeply and more fiercely than anyone I know.

Some people call Bipolar an illness. I call it a gift.