Don’t Stop Fighting I am a 30-year-old female with bipolar disorder and I am here to share my story of living with this mental health condition. By the age of 16 years old, I had probably been diagnosed with every mental illness out there and taken every medication possible. It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and in early recovery from addiction, that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I had this diagnosis. No one understood what I was dealing with. I never knew if I would wake up happy or depressed. I did tons and tons of research on bipolar disorder and found that it is partially genetic, so I decided to do some digging and look into my family. I found out that my great grandmother had died by suicide at the age of 24. My father had told me he didn’t want me to know because he blamed himself for my mental illness. I look back, and always ask, “why me?” I feel like I was hit with the stick that gave me a mental health condition and a substance abuse disorder. Being one of three girls, I always felt like the black sheep of my family. I was always messing up and getting into trouble, especially when I would become manic. To me, mania is an outer body experience and I loved the feeling. In a matter of two weeks I spent over $20,000 because of my mania. I have learned that bipolar disorder is not my life—it’s just part of who I am. I am not shy about it and I do public speaking about my illness. Now at the age of 30, I am a licensed master social worker working with individuals with mental health conditions. Mental illness is not something we can help and education is the key factor in getting others to understand what we are dealing with. I am finally stable on my medication and am doing the best I have been in a long time. Even though my life isn’t where I thought it would be, coming to terms with my bipolar disorder was a major accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong—I still have my ups and downs and I still have a lot of symptoms that are very difficult to manage. NAMI is such an amazing organization with everything they do and I want to thank NAMI for always providing services and educational material to better help understand and deal with bipolar disorder. Remember, you are not your mental illness, it is just a part of you. Stay strong and don’t stop fighting. Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.