When Mik B was 19, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis came at a time of a combination episode, when she was experiencing both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time. While her diagnosis came with medication and an explanation, it didn’t give her everything she needed.
“I was so desperate for answers when I got diagnosed that, while I was definitely grieving and processing it, I was relieved. I was prescribed an antipsychotic and scheduled for follow ups, but that didn’t give much more than an alarm to remember to take my meds,” Mik tells Love What Matters. “It wasn’t until I started doing my own research that I really learned how to manage my bipolar disorder.”
For Mik, understanding the different parts that go into managing bipolar were really important. It is not simply a diagnosis, but lifestyle changes that make an impact.
“Managing bipolar is much more than just medication. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night at the same time can almost single-handedly fight off and prevent episodes,” Mik says. “Daily exercise, even just walking or stretching, eating nutritious foods that support your body’s function, avoiding stress as much as you can, and creating a support system are paramount to managing bipolar disorder.”
“Those of us with bipolar disorder will probably always have bipolar episodes,” she explains. “But you can make them less harmful by doing these things to take care of yourself in addition to taking medication.”
As her understanding of her own mental health increased, so did her understanding of larger stigmas and social issues. Being bipolar or getting a diagnosis can be scary for many people due to prevalent negative beliefs surrounding it.
“There’s this huge stigma that if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s your fault and you’re not working hard enough,” Mik tells Love What Matters. “So people don’t share about it, especially when they haven’t seen anyone else talking about and normalizing it.”
In order to do her part in normalizing it, Mik has begun posting on social media, creating a community of people on TikTok and Instagram who are able to learn about themselves through her experiences.
@mikb_itme #greenscreen If I can do for one person, just one, what I wish I could’ve done for her, then I’ll never stop posting. #bipolar #iris #mikb #mentalhealth ♬ iris –
“I hope to help people accept that bipolar disorder is just like any other illness, physical or otherwise. It requires medication and treatment and that’s completely fine. I want to make people feel seen and heard,” Mik says. “I know I felt really alone with my diagnosis and having other people to talk about it with can really be helpful. This is especially because of what you can learn from other people. Now I share what I’ve learned with others. People don’t realize just how much education can reduce stigma and help with self-acceptance but it makes a world of a difference.”
Beyond her own personal work, Mik recognizes that more than just education is necessary. There are many systematic issues that need to be solved as well.
“Jobs can refuse to hire you, and people don’t have the financial means to afford a professional for a diagnosis or to afford treatment. Even then, there is a huge gatekeeping and gaslighting issue with professionals. Men with bipolar disorder often get misdiagnosed with schizophrenia while women get misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder because of sexism. There’s also very clear racism in mental health care,” Mik tells Love What Matters.
“These kinds of obstacles prevent people from getting better and when people don’t get education or help, the stigma continues. Mental health discussion isn’t going to be able to completely fix everything.”
Mik’s story and journey of acceptance and education is part of a very important conversation around mental health. The community she has created offers a wonderful first step to diminishing the stigma and real change to occur.
This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Anna Steingruber. Follow Mik B’s journey on Youtube and TikTok. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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