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Orangelight Story: Life with Bipolar Depression by Julia Angela Justus

Bree Blatchford

I feel so blessed to have been handed this story by my absolute best friend in the entire world. I have known her since the day I was born and watched her grow into the gorgeous, independent, talented woman she is today. The compassion she has for others is astounding and I aspire every day to live up to her achievements. She is amazing and I hope that you all feel the same after reading this incredible piece! Lots of Love, Bree :)

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I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal to hide in your closet or under desks to cry everyday, as a child I didn’t know how to articulate the depth of the loneliness I felt. I would express severe stomach pain and other physical forms of pain because that was what we are taught. We aren’t taught about mental health from an early age, we aren’t taught enough about it to begin with. My parents, who are both incredible people, were unable to sooth me or dissipate my pain.

Most people would describe me as warm and positive. Only the people that are in my innermost circle have been exposed to the rollercoaster that is my bipolar depression. I am a B2 bipolar, which means that I am in a state of clinical depression the majority of the time and that I have spikes of mania. The first time I was diagnosed with manic depression I felt relieved. This relief came with a sense of hope. I knew how debilitating my depression was and had watched myself destroy relationships with people I cared about. I drank way too much. I lashed out in anger and sadness. I was extremely volatile. I needed change. I needed something to act as a life raft. I’ve been off and on all kinds of medicines, done therapy and meditation but could never find something that stuck.

Now let me back up a little because being bipolar isn’t all bad. It has let me feel such immense love and bliss. I think it makes me so incredibly empathetic to other people’s pain. It makes new adventures and experiences so exciting and it often makes me the life of the party. Being manic was something I used to enjoy. It allowed me to study really fast and be productive enough in a short window to manage my depression on some level. It has also helped me do some really impulsive and weird things like pierce my belly button at 4am after waking up from a not so deep sleep. The good side of B2 as opposed to B1 is that my mania isn’t as intense. But being B2 puts me at twice the risk of suicide from both B1 and Major Depressive.

I have periods of time in my life, which compete for the lowest and most difficult, the most recent of which is the reason I am currently on medication and have been for the past 8 months. When asked about the most significant thing to happen to me in my life, my answer was when this medicine started working. I didn’t know what it was like to wake up neither depressed nor super energized. I don’t feel numb like I have on other medications. I feel normal. I feel capable. I am no longer struggling every morning to get out of bed or crying at some point throughout the day. I am not having anxiety attacks. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t still get sad or have really incredible days. It simply means that my world isn’t rocked by each and every move of the day. I described being bipolar once and holding a spring together with your hands and if something pokes you it shoots open to one side. It is hard to hold my metaphorical spring together all the time. Meditation, medication, and my incredible support system make it easier.

I have been very open about my mental health issues since the beginning. My mom was always encouraging me not to tell people because she didn’t want people to have preconceived notions or for me to be limited at work or in any space. Her heart was in the right place but this always made me feel like she was ashamed of me and I was in turn ashamed of myself. It isn’t my fault, its genetics. It is a burden to bear in many ways but the real burden is on those that are undiagnosed that are living on the island that is depression and unable to speak about it or feel ashamed. Everyone is dealing with something but nobody should have to deal with this alone. You are not alone, you don’t have to be alone.

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