Bipolar and Anxiety Are Not My Identity
My name is Gabe Howard and I have bipolar and anxiety disorders. As a public speaker and writer using my lived experience with mental illness, I say that sentence often. Some version of that is on my business card and website and it is how I start most of my speeches. But, is that my identity? Is a set of diagnoses really who I am?
I talk about living with mental illness more than I talk about my wife, family, and hockey combined. Realistically, that is reasonable. I am not a “Gabe’s wife, family, and hockey writer and speaker;” I am a mental illness writer and speaker. But, in a world where people are narrowly defined, I have gone from who I really am to “the mentally ill” guy.
Living with Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders
Ignoring my chosen career for a moment, living with bipolar and anxiety disorder takes a lot of time. There are symptoms, medications, and therapy to manage. I need to be aware of my moods and be able to explain to those closest to me that I may need help.
When I am in crisis, I need to be able to work through it and deal with not only the immediate issues, but any fallout that may come later – making amends to someone, as an example. Figuring out what “went wrong” or even just accepting the loss of time all factors into the lifestyle of a person living with mental illness.
Managing Bipolar and Anxiety Changes a Person
Living with a chronic illness – any chronic illness – has to become part of a person’s identity. Managing bipolar and anxiety changes a person. The setbacks and successes that come from living with these disorders impact our lived experience. These experiences shape our lives and personalities.
Being known as a person living with mental illness isn’t what bothers me, or other people I talk to, the most. What bothers us is that this is often all we are known for. The truth is, I can be a man living with bipolar and anxiety disorders and a husband, family man, and hockey fan.
All too often, mental illness becomes the sole identity of a person instead of a piece of their overall make-up. While I am certainly a person living with mental illness, that doesn't exclusively define me. Or anyone.
Howard, G. (2014, October 22). Bipolar and Anxiety Are Not My Identity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/10/bipolar-and-anxiety-are-not-my-identity
Author: Gabe Howard
I am going to see a new counselor for grief since my father passed away on January 19 of this year (2015); but have mixed feelings about all of it. I feel love and happiness in the inside; but when I sense or see others' scowls it triggers a response in me that there is something wrong with me.
Like the idea that some celebrities are speaking out on behalf of mental illnesses, but I still feel that others are stigmatizing me for some odd reason. Used to have friends and somewhat of a "normal" life; but it is quite lonely when a person has so much agape love for others, but feel that they are not "allowed" to express themselves because others may decide to take it the wrong way.