In the past three weeks, I've lost my job and my car. The job, permanently. The car, not so much, but I've realized it's a money pit and a lemon. And I'm about three thousand dollars upside down on my car loan.
In the past three months, I lost my mind. For the second time. I also lost a bit of my dignity and self-worth when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.
In the past three years, I've lost a (different) job, a boyfriend, and an apartment.
But I don't want to talk about what I've lost. I want to talk about what I've gained, and what I'm not going to lose. I've gained insight on mental illness, both my own and in general. I've gained a new respect for my relationship with my parents, who are not going to allow me to lose my house. I've gained perspective on the difference between what is personal and what is business, and I've gained the ability to not take things personally, even when they seem to be nothing but. Most importantly, I've gained the strength to say "never again will I allow myself to be taken advantage of, and never again will I let my mind break itself into a million little pieces."
I've gained a voice that is unafraid to talk about my illness, but also the realization that I can make the choice to not be defined by having bipolar disorder. I may be "crazy," but I'm also a dancer, a writer, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a stage manager, a Berkeley graduate, a fluent Italian speaker, a cook, a hockey player, an aggressive driver, and the list goes on and on. I am one of the "lucky ones."
I've gained the courage to talk about my illness openly and honestly, and the backbone to defend my decision to treat it with medication. I've lost the fear of being judged because of the stigma attached to mental illness. I'm currently looking for freelance work that utilizes my skills and intellect, and I'm developing my own passion projects: a documentary that will attempt to clarify the facts about mental illness, and a non-profit that will teach the creative arts to kids that don't have the same advantages I had growing up.
I lost my mind.
I lost my job.
I found my strength.
I found my voice.