Who am I? It’s probably a question a lot of people ask themselves. I ask myself that question all the time, partly because I recognize I am always evolving and partly because I don’t entirely trust my brain to tell me the truth. When you’re bipolar, depression and anxiety can undercut your self-confidence, convincing you that you are not as capable as you need to be. On the other hand, mania can push you into a state of overconfidence that borders on narcissism. Although medication evens out the highs and lows, the nagging feeling of insecurity is often just below the surface. It takes conscious effort to objectively look at my abilities and align them with my goals and responsibilities.
I also struggle with how much I should reveal. As an instructor in higher education and a business owner, my feelings are often conflicted. In higher education, I share my story as a way of connecting with other students, to assure them that having a disability, mental illness, or particularly rough childhood does not preclude them from success. I try to be a model, an example of someone who has developed the art of honest self-evaluation and learned how to maximize my strengths to minimize my weaknesses. And of course, I remind them that everything is temporary. No matter how defeated someone feels at any given moment, no matter how hopeless the cause may seem, the situation is bond to change.
As a business owner, I have the same reservations that I once had as a teacher. If I reveal my diagnosis, how will that effect the relationship? I guess that is the same question that goes through my mind every time I tell someone my experience. Will it shift their perception of my abilities, my stability, or my overall competence? Will any positive or negative moods be attributed to my bipolar disorder? Will I be viewed as a risk?
I suppose everyone has their own set of self-doubts. I suppose there are a number of ways of dealing with them. Some may try to ignore their doubts. Some may try to over compensate. Some may feel the sharp sting and withdraw. Perhaps at some point in my life, I have done all three. I’m trying to master a new method, though. I am learning to breathe through doubt. It is a wave of emotion, like any other. I don’t need to repress it, or cower to it. I simply need to acknowledge that it exists. It’s a logical manifestation of my own self-reflection. When I feel it creep into my head, I take a deep breath and remind myself of times that I was more than capable. I remind myself of times when I was not, but through persistence, I gradually became capable. I take a deep breath and remind myself this is a feeling not an inevitable truth. I breath and take one step forward.