by Michelle Montoro
Nearly 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder in the recent wake of a divorce at the very young age of 26. What began as a severe anxiety attack in my sister’s basement the weekend I left my husband turned into a life altering diagnosis that nearly took my life on many more occasions that I am comfortable admitting.
The mental health field was a lot different 20 years ago as the stigma attached to even seeking help, let alone leaving a psychiatrist’s office with an actual diagnosis, was even more disturbing than it is today. While there is still some harsh stigma attached to issues of mental illness, great strides have been made in opening lines of communication as well as an increase in valuable resources over the past two decades. Nevertheless, those of us who suffer from mental health disorders still live with abundant shame.
I find writing about my life with Bipolar to be a very cathartic practice. It helps me process my thoughts and emotions when I attempt to articulate them into written words. It has always been this way for me. I have boxes of journals stashed in my basement that overflow with the frantic scribbling of a seemingly insane mind. And they remain tucked away in the dark corner of my cellar mostly because of shame.
It has not been until the past 5 years that I have gained the courage to share some of my words publicly. And I only found this courage in a driving desire to help others find their way along the same path that I have traveled.
But here is a really fucked up thing, in my opinion. Not only is there shame about mental illness itself, there is even shame in openly admitting to things that have helped me cope and heal. And I am kind of over hiding it all. Because if something has worked for me, it may work from someone else. It may make the journey a little easier. It may even result in a drastic improvement in the overall quality of life for someone struggling with Bipolar Disorder. It could possibly save a life. Like it has mine.
Marijuana has literally saved my life. It is a good drug. A really good drug. For me. Maybe…