Growing up I always knew there was something different about me. I had a creative mind that was always at work. I was perceptive to people’s moods and often changed mine to match theirs. I could sense people’s depths of emotions even when they expressed something different on the surface.
These qualities served me well in my younger years. My sensitive nature made me a popular friend. My creative mind allowed me to make up plays and choreograph dances for the neighborhood kids to perform. My emotional intelligence helped me write insightful poetry, and wonder about life, all the while star gazing and dreaming about a future where I would change the world in many cool ways.
But then adolescence hit and my differences turned against me. I found myself in an uncomfortable stew of teenage emotions, social awkwardness and not knowing how or where I fit in. The pressure of hormones, school stress and peer expectations turned the heat up even more. My sensitivity to others became suffocating. My sense of the angst spun my head. My creative mind took the gossip that saturates the high school environment and made it all about me.
I grew paranoid, stressed, and lonely. My moods became darker and darker, oscillating like an out of control rollercoaster. I felt the individual scrutiny of my peers collect together to form a snake that hunted me with disapproving eyes and a hissing hatred that made my skin crawl. I went far past being self-conscious: I began to hate myself. I began to believe that I didn’t belong. I began to look for a way out.
Not so far down the road my parents found a suicide letter I had written and I was whisked away to a shrink. A bipolar diagnosis followed along with six years of over-medication which brought on a whole host of new issues: nasty side-effects, warnings that I would never live a normal life, and therapists that felt more invasive then helpful.
My diagnosis was holding me hostage
Wrapped in stigma, held hostage by my diagnosis, at war with my body and locked up in self-judgment, my dreams for my life began to die out. The medication fog fuzzed my sensitivities and creative mind out. My emotional intelligence became the culprit of my ‘crazy’ and so I began to shut it out.
I lived for years this way. Trying to survive. Just getting by day to day.
Lightning struck when I was twenty and moved to Florida. I met a holistic psychiatrist who treated me, not my diagnosis. A door to a different possibility opened during our work together; not only could I get through this, but I could strive to create a life that made me happy.
Emboldened with this new perspective, I undertook a long path of self-discovery that allowed me to reclaim the brilliance of that sensitive, creative little girl before the upheaval of adolescence took hold. I was able to release the crushing self-judgment, move beyond limiting beliefs about my potential and ultimately burst out of the diagnosis box.
I discovered that differences are strengths, not weaknesses and that it is all a matter of self and environmental perspective that allows one to use their difference to thrive.
Three things I learned on my journey
Here are some tidbits of what I learned that you could use for yourself or your children to create more self-acceptance, ease with being and enjoyment of your uniqueness:
We are aware. We have intelligences and sensitivities to our environment and the people in it. We pick up on other’s thoughts, emotions, judgments and stress all the time. The angst occurs when we don’t know that we are aware of others. Instead we buy the emotional stew that surrounds us as ours. We internalized the environmental angst and eventually it starts to feel like it is coming from inside of us. It’s not. We are just aware. Having this knowledge base lets you remain open to receive information without getting lost in it or being at the effect of it.
Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to. So often our awareness of others and the need to fit in limits our choices. We see only two possibilities – either we can go along with what others are doing or we can fight against it. This limited menu of options locks us up.
Going your own way, even if you go alone, is actually incredibly freeing and will allow you to see choices that no one else sees. When you give up the need to conform and people please your creative potential and unique happiness flourishes.
Creative and innovative gifts deserve to be fostered. It’s the people who see the world differently and are willing to use that vision to create that bring about the most change. Encouraging your children to foster their differences will cultivate a creative and innovative ability that will serve them, and the world, better in the long run.
Lauren Polly, Life Coach and author of The Other Side of Bipolar, shares her own journey to help others find the life they desire without limitations. Lauren is a catalyst for people who are living their life on autopilot; she helps others shift from surviving to thriving through dynamic healing, self-empowerment, and life-changing tools in her cutting-edge classes and 1:1 coaching. She hosts a weekly radio show called, Beyond Speech, Limitless Communication, and is a Certified Access Consciousness® Facilitator, Certified Talk to the Entities® Facilitator, ASHA Certified Medical Speech-Language Pathologist, and is a registered Yoga Instructor. Lauren has shown thousands of people around the world how to engage boldly with themselves, their body, and the world to create the life they desire. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.
Thank you for being emotionally raw and sharing this post! I am also bipolar and I feel that so many times in life we are labeled and put on medication (usually much higher doses) that doesn’t serve whom we are deep inside. Bipolar has taught me more how to love myself first and to use my gifts to make the world a better place.