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Bipolar Disorder Helped Me Discover My Talent

IN THE March 29 ISSUE

FROM THE 2014 Articles,
andMental Health
SECTIONS

by Jennifer Marshall

March 30 is the first ever World Bipolar Day. We thought it would be perfect to have a guest post by Jennifer Marshall of Bipolar Mom Life to help us celebrate! Details on how to win a copy of Jennifer’s book Find Your Brave at the end of this post.

Growing up, I was consumed by the feeling that I had no talent. Day after day, year after year, I’d witness my friends excel at sports, dance, theater and music. I never found my niche, my one thing I was really good at.

My friends had found their passions in the sport they had been playing since age three, the dance class they started attending at two-and-a-half, the instrument they picked up at age five and began taking lessons, and the acting camp they attended the summer they turned eight which prepared them to audition for plays and musicals. I preferred to dabble in extra-curricular activities, never committing more than a few years here and there.

Jennifer Marshall

I took dance classes, sang in the chorus and took piano lessons, joined the swim team, was a cheerleader for a few years, among other things. In my free time, I painted murals on the walls of my room and wrote in my journal, read poetry and spun dreams of becoming an artist. The only thing holding me back was fear of failure. I knew dance wasn’t my true talent, the same way I knew I wasn’t destined to become a champion swimmer, or high school chorus singer turned pop star. But as a budding artist, emotional and insecure about any talent I did possess at the time, I was too afraid of putting myself out there for others to judge and measure.

In college, I chose a safe major– Business– partly because I was afraid to follow my interest in the arts, but mostly because I had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated and studying something broad like Business seemed to make sense. There’d be so many options when I came out holding that precious, expensive degree. I was too young and naive to admit to myself (and my parents who were footing the bill) that I really wanted to explore the creative arts – painting, drawing, photography, writing, designing, journalism. The fear of becoming a “starving artist” deterred me enough to give up on my dreams before I even tried to pursue them.

My mental illness didn’t emerge until I was twenty-six years old. I had graduated from college, found my way in the great big, wide open world of business as the leading recruiter of an up-and-coming creative agency, and was newly married to my college-sweetheart. Life was good until I was hit, seemingly out of nowhere, with a manic episode that landed me in a psych ward for several days.

My world was turned upside down, rocked to the core. My life would never be the same from that point on.

I went from enjoying life to not being able to eat because of the anxiety stirring in my gut. I had to figure out how to not fall apart at the office during an anxiety attack. How to not drown in the ever-flowing tears of my depression, how to not let myself believe that I wasn’t going to get better. I eventually had to quit the career which I thought had become my talent. Sheer devastation set in when I no longer reported to an office, no longer had clients and no longer collected a fat paycheck. I felt like a nobody, my self-image shattered and my confidence all but disappeared.

I had a long road ahead of me.

Back then, in 2006, there weren’t nearly as many people talking openly about living with mental illness as there are today. The numbers increase each day, thanks to fantastic awareness campaigns like this one – World Bipolar Day. I never would have imagined this day would ever exist; today, I am so grateful it does.

I began writing about life as a mom with bipolar disorder almost three years ago, but at the time the stigma surrounding mental illness was still so prevalent, I was not ready to expose myself and my family by using my real name. I wrote under a pen name, and worked on my goal of writing my story so that others out there who found it and read it wouldn’t feel so alone. I hoped to inspire and encourage them to keep going because if I could get well with proper treatment and support, they could too. My confidence began to emerge again, causing me to anticipate the day when I’d reveal my identity on my blog.

It took time, but my true talent is emerging now that I’m nurturing it and giving it the attention I wish I would have years ago. I am a writer and bipolar disorder is one of my talents. I’ve experienced things that at the time I wished I never had to feel. Crippling anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychotic episodes, but because I did and lived to tell about it, I have a new perspective to offer the world. My collective empathy and compassion has manifested into a theater production and non-profit organization with the mission of igniting a positive, supportive national conversation about mental illness and the hope that lies in recovery. I named it This Is My Brave and the show debuts on May 18 during Mental Health Awareness month.

I live with bipolar disorder type 1 and I embrace my mental illness because by doing so, I’ve found peace. I believe every person is capable of overcoming mental illness. My e-book, Find Your Brave – a manifesto, describes my thoughts on how we can come together to beat mental illness. Our voices are stronger and more likely to be heard and understood when we join together. For this I am so honored to have been asked to write this article in celebration of World Bipolar Day. A day when people all over the globe who live with bipolar disorder use our experiences and our combined reach to educate those who don’t understand so they can become more empathetic and supportive. May we all celebrate our talents to bring more peace to the world.

Editor’s Note:

Find Your Brave by Jennifer Marshall

In her ebook, Find Your Brave, Jennifer Marshall shares her story about living with bipolar disorder. It includes the story of when she was diagnosed, how it changed her life, and how she has learned to live with it. This is an encouraging and inspiring story for anyone suffering from this disease. I highly recommend reading this book and I look forward to learning more about her journey through a theatre production that will be premiering in May, her blog, and hopefully more books in the future.

To enter to win a pdf copy of Find Your Brace, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Brave,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 5, 2014. U.S. residents only.

You can find more mental health articles in our Mental Health section.

Jennifer Marshal is a former professional recruiter turned writer/mental health advocate via her blog, Bipolar Mom Life. She’s currently producing a live performance theater show on mental health awareness and appreciation which will debut in Arlington, VA in May of 2014 called This Is My Brave. Follow her on Twitter @BipolarMomLife and Instagram.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica March 30, 2014 at 12:43pm

Great post Jennifer! I am sorry for what you have been through, but that is wonderful that you are so open and honest and can share your positive story with others.

It really does make such a huge difference for others that suffer from various forms of mental illness, to know that they are not alone and things do not have to be that way.

Congratulations on your upcoming theater production and keep up the great work!
A recent post from Jessica: Linden Method Reviews – Anxiety Cure?My Profile

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2 Jenn
Twitter: @BipolarMomLife
April 7, 2014 at 2:02pm

Thank you so much, Jessica!
A recent post from Jenn: A Different PathMy Profile

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3 Lorie
Twitter: @mysteryrat
April 7, 2014 at 3:05pm

We have a winner
Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher

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