April 3, 2024

Being Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder is the Best Thing that’s Ever Happened to Me.


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Growing up in a household where emotions were suppressed and mental health was never spoken about at the dinner table, I learned to hide my depression.

I would fake sick to stay in bed, and suffered through anxiety, disordered eating, and substance abuse alone.

My father’s angry outbursts hinted at his mental health issues, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that he received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Cue my family’s first realization that mental health was even a thing!

Four months later, I moved across the country for university, and quickly received my first 3 diagnoses: ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Immediately, it became my biggest fear in the world that I had inherited my dad’s condition. The fear of what my own mind might be capable of began to rule my world entirely, and left me in a total Elsa moment—conceal don’t feel.

When I was 19 years old, and three days away from going to New Zealand on student exchange for a year, I experienced my first and only manic episode. Experiencing mania even once is enough to warrant the diagnosis of bipolar, and considering it was already clear that I suffered from depression, there was no doubt.

I had faced my biggest fear in the world, and you know what? I was absolutely fine.

Sure, mania was intense. I couldn’t sit still, I spoke so fast no one could understand me, and I hadn’t eaten a proper meal or slept more than two hours per night in a few days, but I realised something profoundly important: the fact that my brain had the capacity to experience such highs and lows did not define me, and did not mean I would become someone different. I was still me, and I was determined to find out how to heal my mind without pharmaceuticals.

Having just faced my biggest fear lit a fire within me, and I wanted to find out what else I was capable of. With my new-found confidence and desire to push beyond my comfort zone, I embarked on a life-changing trip to New Zealand, where I would live, study, and work for the next full year.

New Zealand is a haven for outdoor life, and as someone who grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and always wanted to be close to nature, I decided to dive head first into the deep end of outdoor exploration. I began doing tons of things I had always been afraid of: I learned to ski, started multi-day hiking, tried rock climbing, and even had a season of white water paddling. I went from anxious-but-aspiring adventurer to confident outdoor woman in a few short months (and learned a lot in that time).

Every time I would come up against an obstacle, such as moving up in difficulty on a ski run, or trying a longer, harder hike, I would embrace the fear and uncertainty that arose, and choose to move past the discomfort. I had learned that only through facing my fears would I learn they are not so scary after all.

Between semesters that year, I travelled to Thailand to complete my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). I was 20 years old with no intention of actually teaching yoga, but I knew it would help me on my healing journey—investing in ourselves is the best gift we can offer the world.

During my YTT, we meditated for a full hour every morning for a month. I was familiar with the asana, or physical, practice of yoga, but this was my first time experiencing meditation. At first, it was hard to sit still for even 10 minutes, but after three weeks of practice, a whole hour seemed to fly by effortlessly. My mind had never been more clear than it was immediately following my training, and I was never more clearly able to witness and process my emotions.

The most profound shift that came about for me was the realisation that absolutely nothing is wrong with me just because my mind works a certain way. The unique abilities of my mind and the experiences I’ve had are part of what makes me “me”—and that is absolutely beautiful.

Like breathing into the discomfort of a stretch, only once we accept and embrace the sensations can we truly find growth. Now that I was embracing the capacity of my mind, I could learn to truly master its potential.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is the best thing that ever happened to me because it led me to my passion, which is healing.

Eight years later, I’m still teaching yoga and working as a mental health coach, guiding wonderful humans through a deep transformation of truly healing their minds. I haven’t fallen into another episode because I’ve learned to accept and process emotions as they arise, and I’ve never needed medication for my mental health. Not everyone finds the opportunity to move across the world for a year and take YTT to find healing, but the lessons I’ve learned are applicable for absolutely everyone.

No matter what diagnoses we’ve received, how we speak to ourselves inside our head, or what anyone else has told us (including doctors), there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way our mind works—it is part of what makes us beautifully and uniquely us!

Healing is achievable. Healing is within our reach. And while it isn’t always an easy path, we are worth the effort that it takes to feel our absolute best.


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