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It's Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and it goes on and on. Before you know it, the manic mood has lasted weeks, sometimes even months. This is what life with Bipolar disorder looks like; the moods take weeks to shake off and the filter on our day-to-day life is either tinted grey or extremely bright like the colors of the rainbow. A feeling doesn’t just pass, it’s an all-consuming mood that toys with our sense of rationality. We have ups, downs, ups & downs together and stable moods. Bipolar disorder is a neurological disorder that is defined by mania/hypomanic, depression, mixed episodes, and stability. The most important part of Bipolar management is to try to prevent episodes to the best of our ability. People with Bipolar disorder are always one life change away from an episode. But this doesn’t mean our lives have to come to a screeching halt. With the right medication, support system, and psychoeducation we too can lead long fulfilling lives.

My journey with diagnosis has been one windy road, I was first diagnosed with Bipolar disorder at the age of 11 but didn’t start treatment till the age of 27. In the interim between initially being diagnosed and starting treatment, I was misdiagnosed with unipolar depression. The medication sent me on a rollercoaster of moods that landed me in life-threatening and frankly speaking, embarrassing situations. I felt extremely misunderstood and lonely growing up with an illness that seemed to have no cure. But my story doesn’t end there, from the day I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, I got a second shot at life. I was able to catch up on all the things I lost to my illness. I learned how to deal with my moods better and understand my triggers. I gave up alcohol and followed a strict routine because Bipolar disorder hates change. There is no cure for Bipolar disorder and even with medication, episodes still come and go. I am up and then I'm back down but medication does give me the ability to understand what’s happening and check in on how and why a mood episode is coming on.

The biggest part of my recovery has been creating a strong support system for myself, being regular with my medication, and talking about my illness openly. Coming out with my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder has helped me better express my needs to those around me and give them a better understanding of what it's actually like living with my illness. But the loneliness always lingered and I still felt isolated. I reached out to my psychiatrist trying to chase leads for Bipolar support groups with no luck. I live in a country where society has minimized the struggles that come with mental illness. Comments like “it’s all in your head” and “no one in our generation struggled with mental illness” are thrown around callously in India. The stigma against mental illness needs to be reframed in India and that realization is what led me to start openly sharing my experiences living with Bipolar disorder. I started by using my personal Instagram account (@bipolarbix) to share my journey with mental illness and started crowdsourcing stories of others living with mental illness. And that’s when my campaign to end the stigma in India was born. #mentallyilltogether is not just a passion project or a space for me to share my experiences, it's a space for others to be able to share their stories as well. We are stronger together and if openly talking about my diagnosis helps break the awful stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media and the stigma, then my job here is done. Representation matters, even on social media among people advocating for mental health. The feelings of shame that I held on to for so long are now no longer rooted in my body. Finding a community of people that have felt the same way and struggled with the same symptoms gave me a sense of hope. And I hope that my openness about my life with

Bipolar Disorder inspires others to do the same, eventually changing the narrative in India about mental illness. Written By - Ambika Paul

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