You Are So Much More Than Your Illness

Worth Living Ambassador Kadence Jade

My name is Kadence.

I am a mother.

I am a daughter.

I am a sister.

I am a friend.

I am kind.

I am smart.

I am beautiful.

I am thoughtful.

I am generous.

I am adventurous.

I am so many things.

I also happen to be Bipolar.

I had the pleasure of getting in touch with Keith a couple of weeks ago, via instagram. I run an account that supports mental health, in particular Bipolar, but a lot of the content applies to other illnesses as well. When he asked me if I would like to be a part of Worth Living, I was honored. I was also very excited when asked me to write a blog post and here it is!

I have to admit, writing this post was a bit difficult for me, for a number of reasons, the main reason being I was unsure of what I wanted to focus on, content wise. I actually found I had too many ideas, and had a lot of trouble organizing all of my thoughts and different angles. There is so much to be said about mental health and mental illness. Not everyone wants to talk about it. I find that many people treat it as the elephant in the room. I have found myself treated this way in the past (and present) as well. There is a stigma that comes with mental illness and that’s the cold hard truth. It wasn’t until I attended a bipolar support group the other night that my topic of focus became clear to me: stigma.

During an open discussion, confidentiality was brought up as a topic of conversation. A group member was stressing the importance of confidentiality online, in particular on Facebook. This person was afraid that prospective employers would search his name and see that he had posted in some online Bipolar group and it would deter them from hiring him. Somebody else made a comment that after they had told their coworkers of their illness, one was no longer able to look them in the eye. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in and those fears are not irrational.

It is actually the reason why I don’t use my real name on my instagram account, I prefer to keep it private from family and friends, except a select few. Then I got to really thinking about this and is it right that we have to hide a big part of who we are?  Why should we have to keep our illnesses a secret just because other people are judgmental and ignorant? Maybe we should embrace the fact that we are different, and connect with other people who are as well. I feel like so many people have a skewed image of what someone who has a mental illness is like, wild hair, running around, foaming at the mouth. We are not like that at all.

Living with a mental illness is a daily struggle, even on the days you feel completely fine, you may even forget that you even have a mental illness, until the clock strikes and it is time for you to take your medication. There it is staring you in the face, the meds.

I was first diagnosed as a teen and for many years I denied that my illness was real. After my son was born in 2008, I experienced post partum depression and attempted suicide. I am glad I did not succeed. About six months after that, I was hospitalized again for mania (which is basically when you are “too happy” and out of touch with reality, not sleeping, etc) and upon discharge refused to accept my diagnosis, stopped all meds, and chose to ignore it. Things were good for almost 5 years.

In 2014 I suffered a bad head injury, spun into a depression followed by mania. So, in 2015, when I finally had no choice but to accept the fact that I was indeed ill, I was very embarassed and ashamed. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to who could understand how I was feeling, what I’d gone through, or what I was going through. Family, friends and therapists can only say so much, they can sympathize but not empathize, because they do not have your illness. They have not been in your shoes, nor will they ever (probably.)

I attempted to stop all of my meds upon my release from the hospital again, and it put me into a deep depression that lasted close to one year. I would just lay in bed or on the couch all day and night, cry, and think about ending it all. Nothing mattered. Nothing brought me joy. It was an extremely dark place. It felt like I was never going to feel okay again.

I am extremely thankful for my Mom, for looking after me through all of this, and helping to look after my son. I am also extremely thankful to have had the greatest boyfriend who has stuck by me since 2014, through mania, through depression. He would make sure that I got up off the couch and got out, even just to go for coffee or a walk. He got me motivated again, we did a lot of exercising together and that really began to boost my mood (along with some medications as well.) Looking back on it now, I am very proud of myself for pulling through, and so grateful or those who helped me during my struggle.

I have been “stable” for almost two years now. I take my medication regularly, diligently. I have spent a lot of time researching and reading all about Bipolar disorder, so I can better understand what I am dealing with here. I created my Instagram account youarenotyourillness as a way of providing support and connecting with others who have the disorder, I have really enjoyed that and I try hard to post everyday.

I have begun to get more involved in the mental health community where I live. I started volunteering at the Mood Disorders Association as a Peer Support Worker. I feel that I can use my experiences to help others who may be going through some tough times just like I was. Sometimes, you just need someone to listen. Other than that, I exercise often, I try to everyday. I go to the gym, it does wonders for my mood. I try to eat healthy, although I do have some cheat days where I enjoy some pizza or fries (yum.)

I love spending time with my son, who is now 8, and is very into hockey. I love going to his games, it makes me so happy. I love to spend time with friends, family and my boyfriend. I love board games, to the point where I can annoy people by wanting to play them so much. I love country music. I love to cook, and I’m great at it, it is definitely a huge passion of mine. I am a typical girly girl – I love clothes, fashion, shopping and makeup, all that stuff! I l binge watch a lot of Netflix series. My guilty pleasure is Keeping up with the Kardashians.  I went to Mexico for the first time ever in January, it was the time of my life! I can’t wait to travel more. I am enjoying my life right now. I am also bipolar. But, as you can read, I am so much more than my illness. And, so are you! Often, when we receive a diagnosis, it can be devastating, and it consumes your every thought. You focus on all of the negative aspects of your illness, and yourself. I am asking you to forget about your illness for a minute (or longer) and think about what you enjoy…. what makes you happy….who are you?

Your illness is just a chapter in your book, don’t let it take up the whole story! This is your life and it’s Worth Living.


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