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Bipolar diagnosis...finally some answers!

For the past six days I've been in a behavioral health unit at a local hospital here in Richmond. Normally, I'd be writing about how pissed I was to be there or how I felt down about being labeled as mentally ill or "broken" in some way, shape or form. But that's not how I feel about it at all right now. At the moment, I'm actually happy to finally have an answer to what's been plaguing me for so many years. For over a decade I've struggled with my anger, my temper, my patience and even the way I felt about myself. I've struggled with rage, guilt, depression and even suicide. But now, I know that's all been due to me suffering from Bipolar Disorder.

In the African American community, mental health isn't something that is typically Sunday dinner discussion material. Sometimes, it may not even be appropriate or accepted to talk about among your closest of friends if one wants to have an honest and engaging conversation of substance. It's not because we don't have experiences with friends and family who suffer from some sort of mental illness, condition or disorder. It's really because we have so much on our plates as a people who have been the victims of oppression and suppression, that we tend not to focus on what we're suffering from, but rather what we need to fight for and overcome. I am no different. For years I've only been concerned about what I needed to accomplish to feel like I've done something, and ignored the signs that something inside of my head was not quite right, and that I needed help managing my emotions and feelings, some of which were growing more and more harmful as the years went by.

Today, I sit here writing this post as a man who has finally found an answer for so many questions left unanswered. Knowing what the nature of my illness is gives me hope that I can manage my disease and overcome the grip that it's had on my life and on the hopes and dreams I'd set for myself decades ago. No longer do I have to wonder if I'm just a bad person or someone destined to be the victim of anger, hate, rage and violence towards myself and others. Today, I can write about my truth without shame or pity, but rather with the insight of a fighter and a survivor, of someone who is determined to move forward and conquer the course ahead of me with a fearless drive to be successful and happy.

My few days in the hospital were unexpectedly full of laughs, tears, new associations and hopefully positive friendships. I know for sure I gained a new uncle over the past week, and I have been able to hear the stories of people just like and unlike me who have had just as many obstacles and opportunities as I have had in life. The one thing we all had in common was that our brain's way of making sense of the world wasn't quite working right, and we'd all hit a wall where we found ourselves in need of some help to get back on track. And what I know now that I didn't know or understand before, is that there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. My disease isn't any more shameful than someone who has Cancer or High Blood Pressure. There's nothing I did to deserve this and nothing that I could have done to avoid being who I am at this moment. Life simply hands us all different hands to play and we're left to figure out for ourselves just how to play those cards to win.

Well, I plan on playing every card until the last hand has been decided, and I know that I am, and have always been, a fighter and a winner. So, with my husband beside me, my family and friends behind me watching my back, and God and the ancestors as my guides through the rest of this thing we call life, I plan to walk ahead with my head held high, my foot aimed forward without hesitation or a second thought, and my spirit strong with the blood of those who lived and died before me. I don't know exactly what life will bring, or throw my way, but I do know that I'm built tough and unbreakable. The world might be a hard shell to crack, but I have diamond-sharp intellect and a steel resolve that I will not fall to the vices that the world tries to catch me up with. I will take everything I know about myself and everything I've learned about the world from living in it, and use it to push ahead through whatever might pop up in my path. I deserve to enjoy life, and I have to take control of it in order to make that a reality. Nobody is going to drop the secrets to a happy and successful life into my lap. I have to go out there and find out what that is for myself. Then, and only then, will I be able to know the joy of getting up after being knocked down time and time again, and finally beating the foe that has gotten the best of me year after year.

As I approach my 33rd year of life, a year that has so much literal and symbolic meaning, I have to give faith a lot more space in my life to grow, and I have to allow my faith in myself to flourish as I've probably starved it down to almost nothing over the past decade. Finding out that I am bipolar isn't a setback or a downfall, it's the beginning of a new day in my life. It's the start of the rest of my life where I now know what I'm facing and I'm equipped with the tools to take the fight to the enemy with full force and fervor.

I've done the research, and I know the odds are stacked against me. With a very low percentage of African Americans holding positions in behavioral and mental health as doctors, nurses and psychiatrists, I have to work harder and smarter to find the places, people and resources to create the type of care I need to thrive. But, it can be done. With my determination to live a better life, and the people who are out there that provide the types of services and care I can benefit from, I am certain I will gain the help, tools and support I need to continue to get better and reach the potential that everyone I've ever encountered sees in me.

I hope to keep my friends and family updated on my progress through my blog, as well as some videos that I hope to add to the blog in the near future. Thanks to a Brother of mine who blessed me with his presence after I came home from the hospital, I have a renewed sense of self and a new outlet to share my perspective on life, love, and how I'm living the best days of my life right now. I encourage you all to share your experiences with me as we never know how one person's story might inspire or inform another person in need of some support, guidance or just some plain old motivation to take that next step.

Today, I'm going to bed happy. Not because life is perfect, but because it's worth living and I'm damn well sure that I'm worth the life that the Creator gave me to experience his creation. I'm nobody's mistake and even in my fears I can find fortune, I only have to face them head on with the confidence and courage that I have always had inside of me.

As always, I want to thank everyone who reads my blog and I hope that the upcoming weeks, months, and years bring us all experiences that enrich our lives and bring us greater understanding of the world in which we live and how we can all contribute to making it a better place for us and those who will come after we're gone.

I hope you all have a restful night, and a productive and prosperous tomorrow.


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