A job I love: check.

I really enjoy my job at a public relations firm called Enterprise Canada. I have worked there three separate times, and late last year they welcomed me back into the fold after a number of years away for school and other opportunities. Now that I am a few months in, I am happy in my role and also excited for the learning opportunities it provides.

Making a difference: check.

I have started to make Mental Health a priority in my career as well as in my personal life, committing volunteer hours to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and also writing here for Healthy Minds. The reaction to my introductory post on this forum was overwhelmingly positive and supportive which made me want to write more. Writing is quickly becoming an outlet for personal growth that I never expected it to be.

Physical health: check.

I have been attending small group training classes at my gym and everyone in my life is now familiar with my “Buns ‘N Guns” motto. I want to climb mountains and run races.  Finally this week I could walk after class, I am not in pain anymore, I am strong.

But despite all these great things, my illness is sneaky. Last night I was celebrating my recent victories and my Bipolar Disorder unexpectedly showed up.

I don’t party the way normal 24 year olds do; I don’t drink. Keeping my chemicals in balance is challenging enough; adding a depressant like alcohol to my cocktail of pharmaceuticals is a recipe for disaster. So I don’t do it, anymore. As in every other facet of my life, I follow the rules.

But last night I wanted to celebrate.  A cute boy cooked me a fabulous dinner, I ate my favourite pistachio gelato, I had some coffee with a few extra sugars, and I laughed. I was truly, purely, happy — for a time.

And then my inner Bipolar sergeant got restless.

“You know it is after midnight, Sarah.”

“You know you’re laughing quite loud, you’re thinking quite fast. Come back down, Sarah.”

“You’re in uncomfortable territory, Sarah.”

So I stopped myself. I went inside my head, I fought the happiness. I toned it down.

Was I manic? Maybe a little. Was I in danger? Was I making scary decisions or had I left reality? No.

What upsets me about that evening is my crushing self-doubt, even about the good stuff.

In coping with my illness I have accepted that everyone has bad days, and not every frustration or sad moment I have means I am spiraling into depression.

However, last night I realized that I haven’t accepted that I can have good days too. I am afraid of happiness.

For so long I was obsessed with being at a five out of ten, at neutral. No ups, no downs, just steady. Just breathe, just function. This is what comes from being told for years that the emotional ups and downs are a sickness.

I tell people with Mood Disorders all the time that they must work to be happy, they must put in time and effort and find things they love. They must find sources of self worth outside of their illness. And I have followed my own instructions. I have a career, fitness and friends I love.

But one of the inherent challenges of a Mood Disorder is constant doubt. I can play my cards right, I can work my ass off and tick all the boxes. But that little voice in my head still questions, where does happiness end and illness begin?

For more on my struggle with Bipolar Disorder please visit my blog.

About Sarah Lindsay

Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com

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