February 2, 2017
I always believed crazy was a bad word. Politically incorrect. Insensitive. Offensive. Taboo. As a child I once flippantly used it to describe my family’s battle with mental illness, and was met with scandalized stares. How could I be so casual about something so serious? What kind of wicked girl could joke about something so tragic? So I removed the word from my vocabulary. I trained myself to fear it, to be ashamed of it.
Society told me mental illness was a burden to be carried solemnly and, more important, quietly. In silence, family members tried and failed to tighten their ever-loosening screws. And in silence I stood by as the illness ravenously consumed the person I loved the most. Being quiet got us nowhere. Ignoring the problem only helped to fan its flames. And just when I began to understand what this illness was truly capable of, it came for me.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder when I was barely out of my teens. Like our olive skin tone and caterpillar eyebrows, I guess it just runs in the family.
By definition, it is a mental disorder characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. In less scientific terms, it is a real asshole. The disorder strips a person of control. Those affected experience unexpected and unwarranted highs that can increase adrenaline, paranoia, and recklessness, and lows that induce panic attacks, relentless sobbing, and overwhelming lethargy. A person’s heart, mind, and actions either become amplified to a dangerous degree or unrecognizably distorted.
When I was diagnosed I believed my illness would be my great, lifelong weakness. Bipolar Disorder was to be my impenetrable prison, and I would be locked up with it in a castle Princess Toadstool style. Thinking there was no way out, I let it consume me. After witnessing how powerfully it had ravished those I loved, I had assumed that was my only choice. To give in. To give up. I used it as a patsy for embarrassingly bad behavior and dangerous decision-making. I let it take everything until I had almost nothing left to give. I let it be my fatal flaw.
But the interesting thing about “flaws” is that they truly are in the eye of the beholder. Weakness can turn into strength with just a simple shift of perspective. You get to choose. One day I made the choice to stop throwing myself a pity party. I chose to stand up and fight. I would embrace what society taught me to shun. What was once my shameful secret was going to become my secret weapon.
When I harnessed its seemingly uncontrollable might, I realized Bipolar disorder’s powers could be used for good. My diagnosis didn’t have to be an affliction. It could simply be the gift of extraordinary emotions. When a loved one hurt, I could feel their pain with every inch of my skin through my super human ability of empathy. When I witnessed injustice, my anger was transformed into righteous indignation, and nothing could stop me from raising my voice. My passion-fueled soul convinced me to jump into life headfirst, without overthinking. When I was scared, my super-sized heart reminded me I could be invincible. When I doubted myself, my overachieving mind made me believe I was capable of flying. And when I desired something, there was not a person on earth who could hold me back. I could walk through fire if it meant making my dreams come true.
That is the gift being bipolar gave me. It blessed me with a lofty imagination, an iron will, and an unbreakable belief in the impossible. I used my gift to take myself from being homeless to being an athlete and entertainer on international television. I became a woman with a mission.
But what good is a secret weapon if it only serves me? Now it is time to reveal my secret identity. I am Bipolar and I am proud.
And that is why I wanted to write a book. To shine a light on mental illness, to be vulnerable about the days I let it take control and paid dearly for it, and to tell anyone fighting a similar battle: You are not alone. You are not broken.
Putting my past on the pages of Crazy is My Superpower was beyond terrifying. But I promised myself I would break the tradition of silence. No mission has ever felt this personal. This book is my raw, uncomfortable truth. Each word, my blood and bone. I am so grateful to be able to tell my story.
I hope to be a resource for those fighting similar battles against mental illness. Even if your battle is a different one, my message to you is the same: Embrace your crazy, your imperfection, your weakness--whatever it may be--because it is the most special thing about you.
I have been labeled a lot of things in life; Nerdy, loud, short, stubborn, impulsive, freak, crazy- everything I was told should be my greatest insecurities, weaknesses, my biggest roadblocks- turned out to be my greatest strengths. I didn’t become successful in spite of them, I became successful because of them.
I am no longer afraid to be called crazy. Crazy is my superpower. What will yours be?