Imagine you wake up to your heart pounding for no apparent reason. It continues for hours until it instantly ceases and is replaced by a world of sadness. By dinner, you’re exhausted by your own emotions and thoughts but now you feel oddly giddy and full of energy.
Welcome to the world of bipolar disorder.
A Fateful Friendship
I first met my cute Annie when we were serving missions for our church. I began my service about three months earlier, so when she arrived to St. Louis I got to be the one to show her the ropes. From the instant we met we had such a natural friendship. It felt like we had known each other forever! We’d laugh, joke, and Annie would always document it all with her photos.
Soon we became very close and learned everything about each other. I’ll always remember the day when Annie told me about her biggest struggle- her mental health.
“Sometimes I get depressed. It’s like an elephant is sitting on my chest, and I’m completely paralyzed.”
I honestly didn’t know what to say. It seems like every friend I hold dear has some sort of mental health struggle. All of them are such amazing people and it just doesn’t seem fair!
I need to pause the story here for a minute and interject. Being the friend of someone who suffers from mental health is hard. As a friend, you want to love, support, and ultimately help to “fix” your person. It breaks you in half to see them struggle and you can’t relieve them of the problem. Although you know they are the ones feeling the real pain, your heart can’t help but hurt. I have to admit that at times I let these emotions get to me and was not the best friend I could have been. However, I cannot stress enough that keeping your friendship alive is SO WORTH IT. It’s so inspiring to see how Annie, and many of my other friends, continue to rise above their struggles and care about other people. Ok end of rant. Back to the story.
Annie never failed to amaze me throughout the rest of our missions (and she still amazes me now). Even though she was going through a lot of trials herself, she always had time for other people, including me. When we got home we remained close and she was even a bridesmaid in my wedding!
Recently Annie went to the doctor and was greeted with a new diagnosis. She explains the whole scenario much better than I do, so I’m going to let her take it from here.
“The day that I got diagnosed as bipolar was a interesting one for sure. I went to go see a doctor who specializes in medication for people with mental illness, ADD, ADHD, etc. He and I talked for awhile and he asked if I had ever thought I was bipolar.
My initial reaction was to give an adamant ‘NO’. My understanding of the disorder at that point was just the people you see on tv. The ones who go crazy and refuse to take their meds and end up buying insanely expensive items or doing some shocking thing…. Twenty minutes later I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder.
There are a few different types of bipolar disorder. In general though, bipolar is characterized by clear but unusual changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.
“I worried that this changed everything about who I thought I was.”
“I can experience anxiety for one day, be manic for three days and then depressed for a week. It’s pretty random and varied. I often get worried because my mood never stops shifting. I never know when it could change. It’s like waiting for a shoe to drop that never does.”
When your mood can change so drastically all the time, it’s important to have a few things up your sleeve that can help improve your mood. For Annie, those include friends, family, and photography.
“I got into photography on my mission as a way to relieve stress. I love taking pictures because it is a way suspend a single second in time forever. I get to show people what I see and how I view the world. My favorite thing is to capture the emotion of a person or the emotion between a couple. To me it is proof that there is beauty and goodness in the world.”
Whether or not your mental health is in jeopardy, the most important thing to understand about yourself is what makes you enjoy life. I firmly believe that smiling is a gift to yourself and everyone around you.
Being passionate about something is what makes life worth exploring. Get out there, find your passion and stick with it! For Annie, this includes photography and she’s REALLY GOOD at it!
Below are some of the amazing photos Annie took of Payson and I. She understands so much about emotion and life, and it really comes through in her pictures. Also, for any of you aspiring photographers out there, here are three quick photography tips!
Always be aware of your light source. Remember to adjust your camera every time your light source adjusts.
Make sure your lens is always clean. Learned that the hard way.
Never stop trying and learn all you can. Youtube, Pinterest, Google, other photographers, just always keep learning.
Do you struggle with mental health? Did this story help you in any way? Feel free to share Annie’s story with your friends and leave your comments below. We’re all here to help each other, so don’t be shy!
Also here are a few helpful websites if you’re dealing with any of the mental health issues we discussed above.
And here’s a video for if you’re a friend that wants to help.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!