The author, who is living with bipolar disorder, sitting on her porch.

I Discovered That Sharing My Mental Illness Is An Act Of Love

“I share being bipolar because it is an act of love.” This just came out of my mouth last night while I was talking to a friend of my husband. She was telling me about her daughter’s struggles without sharing intimate details, so I told her I was bipolar. This usually makes people more comfortable sharing their stories. After awhile she asked me why I tell people I have bipolar disorder. That’s when the words, “I share being bipolar because it is an act of love,” rolled out of my mouth like poetry, and I was thinking, “This is new.”  I never consciously thought about it this way.

I’ve been open about my bipolar disorder for a long time because people seem to do something good with the knowledge, like ask thoughtful questions or share their experiences with mental illness. It really makes people feel good to talk about something that’s been a secret outside their family. They are used to speaking in code and walking around the edge of the illness. Their children have ups and downs, a little trouble fitting in. They are messy, unfocused, and tired.

Over the years, I’ve listened to people’s stories of depression, eating disorders, manic depression, cutting, hoarding, and suicide. Occasionally, someone says they’ve never talked about their illness before. Selfishly, these stories remind me that I am not alone. I feel valuable when I sense mine is helpful, but I’ve never thought about them in the context of love.

Now that I’ve said out loud that sharing my bipolar disorder is an act of love, the value of the exchange is clear. When you tell someone you have manic depression, which is categorized as a severe mental illness, the emotional risk is kin to saying, “I love you.” For me the risk is completely worth it because you also find “your people.” Those who either live with mental illness too or empathize. These exchanges have been one of the great joys of my life. They allowed me to share, from the darkest place, things that lighten others.

They are like the everyday kindnesses that feed us, only better because you share something that may help heal someone. Kindness is the world’s simplest and most efficient fuel. Intentions that are acts of love are stars in the night.