The Process of Writing About My Mental Illness

I had never really talked to someone else about Bipolar disorder…there is still a significant lack of openness about this particular mental illness that makes it hard to find other people who go through similar struggles

As we set out to make Echo and decided upon naming it The Body Issue, I knew there had to be a story about mental health. Of course, I was not the only one as so many people struggle with many different illnesses. So, when our Executive Editor, Tyra Bosnic, asked me if I would be interested in co-writing a feature regarding our shared experience of having Bipolar disorder, I immediately said yes. But it was the format in which we wanted to go about it that was the most telling.

We decided to present our stories in a sort-of Q&A format where we sat down on a couch and had a conversation based on a set of agreed-upon questions. Speaking that candidly about my life was scary, despite the fact that Tyra and I have known each other for a very long time. I had never really talked to someone else with Bipolar disorder about, well, Bipolar disorder. Crazy, right? But there is still a significant lack of openness about this particular mental illness that makes it hard to find other people who go through similar struggles. All at once, something I was usually very nonchalant about became something emotionally impactful. But it was also therapeutic in a way I hadn’t gotten to experience in a long time.

Discussing such sensitive subjects isn’t everyone’s favorite pastime, something Tyra and I are wholeheartedly aware of. There are things that we discussed, privately, just the two of us, that will not make it in print. And that’s OK. The process of writing (or, well, transcribing) “Of Two Minds,” was not necessarily meant to be the be-all-end-all where we said what we had to say and we would never say it again. That pressure didn’t exist, and we didn’t allow it to exist in the safe space we provided for each other. We cursed a little too much and laughed a bit more in places that may seem insensitive to others. But I learned a lot about Tyra and even more about myself in the time that went by so quickly. Before I knew it, I looked down at the recorder and saw that 40 minutes had gone by.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Alexa James, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Chicago, who gave some incredible quotes that solidified not just Tyra and I’s experiences as young women living with Bipolar disorder, but also 5.7 million other people who are systematically silenced. When was the last time you heard someone say they had Bipolar disorder before reading this process blog? Maybe recently or maybe not. There isn’t much representation whatsoever, and it is often associated with unkind words that don’t make it any easier for those who do want to speak up about it to be adequately heard.

I hope that readers who engage with “Of Two Minds” wonder about the process of writing it. They might be surprised to hear that it was like breathing a big sigh of relief and finding pockets of joy. Though the sources are just Tyra and me, we hope to bring awareness about Bipolar disorder to a wide audience online and locally. Our hearts went into the conversations we had to make up the dialogue that will be in Echo Magazine, and I personally hope that it shows people Bipolar disorder is nothing to be afraid of.