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Living with bipolar: the letters I never sent

Today is World Bipolar Day (WBD). WBD is celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh. The famous painter is believed to have had bipolar disorder. WBD aims to bring awareness to bipolar disorder and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.


I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost 25 years ago. It took a lot of work for me to get here, but I can now openly share this. I have accepted it and it no longer defines me. I am successfully managing my disorder and have been living a mentally stable life for almost a decade.


I have experienced the euphoria of mania and darkness of depression numerous times. It was always difficult to explain to others who aren’t bipolar what I was going through or how I felt. During those moments and during the times living in recovery shortly after, there were a lot of things I wanted to say to the people in my life but couldn’t. Some of them I have said and others I no longer need to.


With it being World Bipolar Day, I will share my letters I never sent. I call it, “What we wish we could say to the people in our lives.”


Dear strangers who don’t quite understand,


Please don’t use bipolar as an adjective to describe someone’s personality.

It is a severe mental illness that I struggle with every day.

Please don’t disregard or judge us before you know us.

This may be a part of us but not our entire identity.

Please know that we are just like everyone else.

We need love and acceptance and are just trying to survive.


Dear friends and family,


I’m sorry if my mental illness makes you uncomfortable.

This is a lot more uncomfortable for me than it is for you.

Please don’t ignore me after you find out I have bipolar disorder.

Please understand I didn’t choose this for myself.

Please allow me to still be in your lives if this is the only thing keeping you from doing that.

Please accept me for the person I am.


Dear immediate family,


I’m sorry for making your life harder at times.

I know it is confusing to know when to back off and when to get help.

Please don’t hold it against me when my emotions are hard to handle.

Please be patient with me when I just can’t snap out of my depression or mania.

Please forgive me for the terrible things I did or said when my mania was out of control.

Please let me stay in bed for a few days if I need to.

Please know that I am trying my best.

Please love me even though I may not be the easiest to be around sometimes.

I love you even if I may not be able to show it all the time.

I love you for enduring the tough times while I fight my internal battles.

I love you for loving me.

Thank you for sticking around even when it’s hard.

Thank you for being in my life.

Thank you for your love and acceptance.

Thank you for helping me through the darkness to find my light again each time.


To myself and my fellow bipolar friends,


Stay strong, it’s not easy but it’s worth it.

YOU are worth it.

YOU are enough.

YOU matter.

Do not be defined by this.

Do not feel shame for living with this.

Do not give up.

The acceptance of others would be great, but you don’t need it.

You ARE different but let this become your strength, your courage, your power.

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