I Own Bipolar and cPTSD

by Kelly Brealey 11 months ago in coping

Why I am thankful for my mental illness and injury.

I Own Bipolar and cPTSD

A lot of times, you hear people with medical or mental health conditions "disown" their diagnoses. They refrain from saying "my cancer", or, "my anxiety"—and for good reason. It has been shown that by separating yourself from your illness, you don't take on the negative attributes; you are not your illness.

Some even call their illness by different names, like an alias, of sorts. For example, instead of saying "depression," they call it "the black dog" etc.

My belief is that if disowning your illness helps you to get through your days, fantastic! Do what ever works for you—as long as you don't hurt yourself or any one else.

For me, however, I take a very different approach to the mental health issues I have been diagnosed with (Bipolar disorder, and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—cPTSD).

Mental illness? I OWN THAT BITCH.

Firstly, from a subconscious perspective, the harder you try to deny the existence of something, the stronger it reigns supreme in your mind. Example; don't think about Chris Hemsworth, not even for one second. Don't even get a mental image of him in your mind—and most importantly, don't you go imagining him in his Thor costume...

How did that work for you? Did you see him in your mind? But I told you NOT to think about him?... Ahhh... the power of the subconscious mind.

Another example; think about the food you have the most trouble saying 'no' to (or wine or beer for that matter). The more you deny yourself that craving, the stronger it becomes—it is like a force that threatens to overtake your will power; more often than not, it wins.

So for me, it makes sense that the more I deny or try to hide the existence of Bipolar or cPTSD, the more my life is run by it; denying it causes its force to strengthen, and therefor it determines the actions I do, or do not, take.

My subconscious mind becomes so preoccupied with trying to dismiss or disown it, that it ends up being ALL I can think about. As a result, the illness owns me.

Secondly, there is no cure for Bipolar. It is something that I will have to live with and manage for the rest of my life. Is that a consoling proposition? Heck no! But what are the alternatives?

Crawl into a hole and hate the world? Give up?

Nope. No this little black sheep.

I will own that shit.

I accept every, single part of me, without judgement or criticism. That means I acknowledge the good, and the not so desirable.

We are all so willing to accept our "good points"—we own it if we are excellent communicators. We boast about our success in the sporting arena (well, not me—I suck at sports). We display our academic prowess on our walls and in our bio's.

We play to our strengths, and we suppress or hide our perceived weaknesses or flaws.

How is THAT being authentic? How can you be truly happy if you are denying something so significant about yourself?

I choose to view my mental illness and injury as my super powers.

Sure, they have caused pain and heartache over the years, sometimes significantly so, but if that is all I choose to focus on, then that will be how my outside world will look.

Instead, I choose to look for the "gifts" in my brains' ability to keep me safe and alive (because that is what brought about the illnesses in the first place —a constant and unrelenting threat to my safety).

I wasn't born with Bipolar, however, I was predisposed to developing it; significant trauma triggered it. And it also caused my cPTSD.

I see it as my brain's way of dealing with a horrific ordeal. You can't help be anything but amazed when you see it that way. My cPTSD is a psychological scar— not too dissimilar to a physical scar on your body after suffering a physical trauma. All ways in which my brain found to keep me safe.

My Bipolar

MY Bipolar has allowed me to experience the elation that comes form a hypomanic—the feeling of utter euphoria and invincibility. It has enabled a level of creativity and abstract thinking that I would never have experienced if I were "normal".

It has taught me that my mind and body can survive for several days, even weeks, on no more than three hours sleep per night. It revealed a level of confidence and an attitude of "I can be and do anything I set my mind to" that anyone would be envious of.

MY Bipolar gave me the reputation of putting the "quirk" into quirky—I see the world differently, I feel the world differently, and I express myself differently. I have a wicked sense of humour and a zest for adventure. If it will make myself and those around me laugh, then I'm into it! I can't always control the quirky things I do, so as long as I am not causing harm to my self or others, I don't try to control them.

MY Bipolar has given me energy, motivation, determination, and passion for life—I am the girl who jumps up and down, squeals with delight, and claps her hands when she is excited about something. It doesn't have to be for my own excitement; I do this, even if I am excited for YOU!

MY Bipolar has allowed me to get back up again after each and every one of the significant knock-downs I have endured. I have a tenacity that I am so incredibly proud of—I feel the fear, and do it anyway.

MY Bipolar has also allowed me to feel things that most trauma survivors don't allow themselves to feel; sadness, hurt, betrayal, anger, shame, pain, love, happiness, fun, vulnerability, excitement, joy, gratitude, empathy, safety. My Bipolar has made me feel the absolute lowest of lows—the depths of despair—and the highest of highs.


MY cPTSD has taught me that my hyper-vigilance is a super power— I have the ability to efficiently and rapidly assess any person and situation and make an incredibly accurate assessment. I am a master at reading non-verbal, as well as verbal cues from people I meet; I see what it is they are really saying behind their choice of words—and it makes those who are dishonest or insincere, very nervous... I like that.

MY cPTSD has made me an incredibly astute judge of character—I see when someone's actions are derived from pain, or when they react as a result from hurt. I am very good at assessing someone's intentions—spending my whole life looking for signs of threat from people has made me very good at recognising when an individual is trying to manipulate me, or others. I am nobody's fool.

MY cPTSD has given me the most extraordinary memory—I remember every detail. If someone deliberately hurts me, I will store that shit in the back of the depths of my mind—just in case I need it. I have no control over this process, by the way, it is just how cPTSD works—we accumulate evidence of threat or opportunity.

Due to my illness and injury, and past trauma, I am VERY tolerant, forgiving, and understanding (sometimes to a fault), but if a shot is unfairly fired at me, be warned, because I can, and will, bring the war. My cPTSD allows me to stock pile years of detail in my memory and it stores it, loaded and ready in times of need.

This is really unhelpful for those in the firing line, however, it isn't my business to make them feel better about intentionally hurting me. I will vehemently defend my boundaries and my safety.

I used to hate this quality of my illness the most, however, I can tell you that over the years, it has served me well in sorting the "wheat from the chaff" in my life. I became very adept at seeing patterns of behaviour in certain types of people.

My Trauma

MY trauma has allowed me to deeply feel what others are feeling —if they are hurting, then so am I. I know what it is like to hurt so deeply that you question if life is worth living—so it is my passion to alleviate that pain in others. Although being an empath can bring about more pain for me if I am not cautious, it is such an amazing gift to be able to "feel" the energies of other beings; to know without words being exchanged.

Mental illness can be debilitating. It can ruin lives and destroy all that is good in the world.

I am fortunate enough that I can impose a certain level of control over my illness and injury—so I do.

It is ME who decides how I see myself and the world around me. My happiness is up to me—and because I choose to see the gifts inside what would normally be considered a disability, I am able to use them as a superpower.

Mental illness? I own that bitch.

Kelly Brealey
Kelly Brealey
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Kelly Brealey

Trauma survivor, domestic violence escapee, Bipolar & CPTSD thriver, and mental wellness warrior.

See all posts by Kelly Brealey