There was a time when bipolar disorder was a dark shade against my window of the world.  But eventually, I got better.  Now I believe that my bipolar disorder is really a blessing in disguise.

I was working as a medical transcriptionist when I lost it and had to be hospitalized, where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

One of the biggest problems is that I was a workaholic.  And a perfectionist.  And the two don't go too well together for your mental health, if you know what I mean.  I was bound to crash at some point.

I expected too much from myself.  Way more than other people expected of me or that I would ever expect from someone else.  So I broke.

Sometimes I think that the bipolar disorder was a great big STOP sign for me.  It made me stop and take a look at how I was living and that I wasn't taking care of myself, working too hard, having the wrong priorities, etc.

I lost my job because of the bipolar disorder, but today that is a blessing, because I'm able to work from home in a stress-free environment, which the hospital absolutely was not.  I can work around my "bad bipolar days" and do work that I love.  Here's what I'm talking about -- I was very good at being a medical transcriptionist, but I didn't love it.  It makes a big difference when you are doing what you love -- and getting paid for it!

Plus, I'm able to be myself.  I don't have to worry about what people think, or trying to hide my bipolar disorder.  I had to do a lot of self-examination because of the BP, and I have grown and emerged a stable person who is very happy with her life.

Because I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was able to go on Disability, which provides a fixed income for me.  The work I do for is just ice cream on the cake (you're allowed to make a certain amount above Disability, because it's certainly not enough to live off).

My self-esteem has improved tremendously.  I never realized how much that job was really stressing me out and taking its toll on me.

Now that I'm not there any more, I am so much more relaxed, content, and stable, and can concentrate on what I really want to do - help people; specifically people with a mental illness.

Tonight I am giving another talk for NAMI's In Our Own Voice program, where I will tell my story and try to encourage other people with a mental illness that they are not alone, and that recovery is possible.  I always call it my "putting a face on mental illness."

Too many people think a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is a death sentence - whether because it has no cure (yet) or because it is a kind of death to the life you lived before you got diagnosed.  I'll take the latter, thank you very much.  I didn't realize how off-kilter my world (and me) really was.

Bipolar disorder makes me look at myself every day and like what I see.  I take care of myself now.  I am more careful in my decision-making.  I have a strong support system (where before I was too busy overworking that I never had friends or any down time - I took all the overtime I could get, even on Sundays).

Now I am not just mentally and emotionally stable, but I am spiritually fit as well.  I didn't even have time for God in my life before -- I was too busy being that workaholic.  It's like I was on a train to self-destruction.

Luckily I was diagnosed properly and put on medication that helps me to be who I am today, and keeps me stable.  Don't get me wrong - I still have a responsibility in my stability.  I have to take my medication, avoid triggers, watch for signs of an episode, avoid stressful situations and toxic people, make sure I get a good night's sleep, go to see my doctor, psychiatrist, and therapist regularly, etc.

But my life now is so much better than it was before.  I really believe that bipolar disorder was a blessing in disguise.