Accepting my bipolar – my version of success
After feeling like she was constantly failing, Cerys lives life with her bipolar at her side, rather than as a hurdle in her way.
Despite stopping paid work almost a year ago to focus on my mental health and wellbeing, I still sometimes find myself crippled with thoughts of failure for ‘taking time out’. If you asked me at fifteen where I saw myself at twenty-four, I would have said a lawyer or starting a PHD. I would have said that I’d be living in a city, fully independent and able to juggle my work life and hobbies without constant support and intervention from my family. But this isn’t where I’m at, and this isn’t something I will be moving any closer towards.
I’m learning that that’s okay.
Despite achieving a 2:1 in my degree, this wasn’t without a diagnosis of bipolar in my second year, as well as lots of blood, sweat, and tears. I sat my exams late in both second and third year, and my graduation was delayed until January 2020, meaning I wouldn’t finish university with the majority of my friends and cohort. This was the real beginning of feeling like I had failed compared to my peers.
At this point, I still continued to prioritise perceived ‘success’ over my mental wellbeing, applying for legal vacation schemes and committing to a masters despite worsening mood swings. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that the only way to succeed would be to work myself into the ground and avoid confronting my deteriorating mental health, because in my mind, my bipolar was holding me back.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that the only way to succeed would be to work myself into the ground and avoid confronting my deteriorating mental health, because in my mind, my bipolar was holding me back.
Unfortunately, this all resulted in my mental health deteriorating to the point where I could no longer even manage to hold down my part-time job in the hospitality sector. I handed in my notice and dropped out of my masters with immediate effect, because I couldn’t even comprehend going outside. I cried for days on end and started to torment myself with thoughts of what could have been, of who I could have been if I wasn’t this mentally ill ‘version’ of myself.
The reality is that this version of me is the only version of me. I have various mental health issues as well as my bipolar – something that will be a part of me forever, something that makes me so unique. My bipolar is my creativity, my passion, and the thing that drives me to write and campaign for others with mental illness. The truth is that without my bipolar and all my quirks and flaws, I wouldn’t be a person at all, because I wouldn’t have any of the things that make me who I really am.
I’ve come to realise that my version of success needs to be determined by me and me only, and that my perspective will change with my mood cycles. My success can be the small things, like walking the dog, writing a short story, or journaling. When I start to overthink and find myself comparing my life to others, my old career plans seeming like a distant memory, I have to remind myself that my story is different to theirs, and that it is unique to me.
My bipolar is my creativity, my passion, and the thing that drives me to write and campaign for others with mental illness.
So today, the things I currently pursue and enjoy are volunteering, writing my blog, walking, mental health campaigning, and my various mood-related hobbies! Life needs to be taken at your own pace, with your mental illness by your side instead of seeing it as a hurdle in the way. I wish I had realised sooner that I can forge my own version of success, on my own timeline, with bipolar by my side. But for now, I’ll start by taking those first steps towards acceptance, understanding, and true self-love.
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