World Bipolar Day comes around this week on 30 March. It’s 24 hours dedicated to raising awareness around Bipolar Disorder and chipping away at the concrete stigma still surrounding the diagnosis. This date was chosen because it’s also the day that Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853; one of the world’s most talented artists, who also lived in the darkest night of bipolar highs and lows.
He produced more than 2100 works of art, but only sold one in his lifetime. He committed suicide at the age of 37, two years younger than I am now. It’s the age I considered killing myself too – and although the thought had crossed my mind hundreds of times before, at age 37 I had it planned and I was ready to go.
But my star wasn’t ready to go out.
I don’t think Vincent’s was either. His life’s beauty was only recognised when he was no longer here, and that is a fate I wish others didn’t have to share. I want to be part of the movement that pins those of us who live with bipolar disorder to the night sky, showing the world how bright we can shine.
One incredible woman who shares this mission is Demi Lovato. She is a circle of white light painted on black, and shows us what is possible. Her story of living with Bipolar Disorder has inspired millions worldwide to step out with their own, and she is living proof that you can be successful, strong and healthy despite your diagnosis.
I have been told countless times that I am brave for coming out with my story publicly with this blog. Sometimes I paint an imaginary question mark into the space that comment floats in – because I don’t see it that way. I simply refuse to be ashamed of who I am. Bipolar Disorder does not define me. It is part of my life and something I need to manage, but I will not hide in the shadows because someone else is shielding their eyes to avoid looking at me.
Vincent and Demi, along with millions of less famous others like myself who have Bipolar Disorder tattooed onto their soul’s DNA, choose to shine brightly and share the magic that lies behind the label. The world would be poorer without van Gogh’s art, without Demi’s voice, without mine. Without yours.
Don’t be afraid of coming out of the dark.
That is when you are most beautiful.
“Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night
You took your life, as lovers often do
But I could’ve told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
One as beautiful as you”
– Don Mclean