My Story: Bipolar Barbie

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

Growing up, I was the girl that had everything. I was the girl who always had good grades and at the top of all my classes – I was that obnoxious overachiever. It's almost laughable now that I was voted most likely to succeed.

It was about halfway through my law degree that I realized something was very, very wrong. In 2012, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after a string of traumatic deaths in my life. At that point, I was prescribed antidepressant after antidepressant, but nothing this type of treatment wasn't working well for me. I was then told to talk it out with a therapist (which I saw every second day at that point) to help both my symptoms and mental health.

I ended up dropping out of law school and moving across the country to follow my dreams of becoming a museum curator by studying ancient history and fine art. Unfortunately, my mental state deteriorated and I was severely suicidal for many months. For the first time, I was sent to a psychiatrist and was re-diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder in 2014.

My medication was changed and adjusted numerous times as I bounced in and out of doctors offices – sometimes daily for weeks on end – searching for answers. I was reaching out to anyone who would listen, but few did.

It wasn't until I was hospitalized, after a relationship with an abusive man lead to a psychological breakdown, that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in 2015. The trauma haunted me daily and my mental state was so bad I could barely survive. I was homeless, couch-hopping, then employed and homeless within weeks of each other. I was distressed, my life was a mess and I was hanging by a thread.

I ended up in another abusive relationship and turned to drugs and alcohol to help numb the pain. I was self-medicating to try and keep myself alive. I was so suicidal at the time. I was constantly reaching out to medical professionals and struggled to find any answers. Once again, I was hospitalized and they added borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

It took another couple of years of living to be able to have more than a month of stability. Even to this day I still struggle, but things are a lot better than they were in the begging.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I've had to make substantial lifestyle changes to accommodate my illness. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. The only way you can survive the journey is to learn to live with it.

A long time ago, I realized fighting head-on against it just wasted my energy. These past six years has been like putting together a giant 10 million piece puzzle. I was being experimented on, in what felt like, a trial-and-error approach that robbed me of my quality of life.

Although I can finally say I am on the other side – it wasn't easy. I now have finally found the right combination of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, hormone and heart medication to ease my symptoms enough to keep me out of the psych ward.

Contrary to popular belief, not a lot of the lifestyle changes were a choice. I am currently unemployed and on a disability pension because I could not keep a job – especially being hospitalized so often. I was a good employee, but I was just too sick too often which made me unreliable.

I have had to move back home with my parents because I am unable to support myself or care for myself independently financially. I have also had to get used to weekly psychology and therapy visits as well as psychiatry appointments, GP visits, and maintaining expensive health insurance and prescriptions.

Unfortunately, I have had to give up my dreams of graduating from university. I am forever grateful for my assistance dog, Northy, and the freedom from agoraphobia he has given me to be able to start leaving my house again.

All of the above have given me enough functioning capacity to practice Qigong, eat healthier, exercise and participate in activities that are conducive to good mental health.

Who has been there for you? How?

I needed a hero, so a hero I became. I learned far too young that the only person you can count on is yourself. For years, I was yearning for someone to save me – to rescue me from this pain. Episode after episode, I was always left with the bitter taste of disappointment on my tongue.

No one heard my cries for help. At first, I blamed them, but I knew I shouldn’t. I felt like I was screaming loudly, but no one seemed to hear a thing. I wondered if it was a language barrier or did they not understand?

As time went on, I began to understand my situation well enough to express myself clearly. I used every descriptive sentence under the sun to explain my despair, except for the most important phrase of all “I need help”. That took me many more years to articulate.

Something was wrong with me. I was drowning and then soaring, and I watched the walls of my perfect life crumble around me. I lay atop my pile of rubble and destruction, head in hands and I cry. I was alone in this war.

I knew I needed a hero, that was obvious. I wanted my dad to save me – he was the only real hero I’d ever known. However, when I needed him the most, he was nowhere to be found.

I remember the day I called my dad to tell him for the first time that I wasn't okay, and he hung up on me. I remember how much it hurt, as tears stream down my face right now, to have my hero abandon me in my time of need. I wanted him to drive to campus and take me home, and I wanted him to care enough to take care of me. I didn't care if I was in trouble and I didn't care if he dragged me home by the ear – I just wanted him to be there. However, that day never came.

So, I put my faith in the medical system. Although severely lacking, eventually I found qualified professionals who were willing to listen to me.

I've had to make substantial lifestyle changes to accommodate my illness. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. The only way you can survive the journey is to learn to live with it.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

If you asked me years ago, I would have rattled off an extensive list of awards, titles, and trophies in all disciplines.

In the past, I was a finalist in the Miss Universe Australia pageant, and I also had a full scholarship to one of the countries most prestigious law schools. I won countless public speaking, debating and sporting competitions.

I was a good athlete and succeeded academically, but I never had to work hard. People often make the mistake of attributing results to hard work, but that was never the case for me. I succeed well beyond anyone's expectations, but it all came so easily to me – that was until I got sick, then everything changed.

Still, I am grateful for that experience – I honestly am.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

If you asked me years ago, I would have rattled off an extensive list of awards, titles, and trophies in all disciplines.

In the past, I was a finalist in the Miss Universe Australia pageant, and I also had a full scholarship to one of the countries most prestigious law schools. I won countless public speaking, debating and sporting competitions.

I was a good athlete and succeeded academically, but I never had to work hard. People often make the mistake of attributing results to hard work, but that was never the case for me. I succeed well beyond anyone's expectations, but it all came so easily to me – that was until I got sick, then everything changed.

Still, I am grateful for that experience – I honestly am.

What's your advice to someone else living with bipolar disorder?

Don't give up trying, don't give up trying to get better, and don't give up fighting for the good life you deserve.

Don't let someone tell you what they think you have or that it's just all in your head, you need therapy, to do yoga or eat healthily in order to fix yourself – even if it is a doctor.

If you aren't getting better, keep going. Don't take the word "no" for an answer. I never once accepted that this was the best I was ever going to be, no matter how many times I was told that might be the case. I tried 17 different medications, saw eight different psychiatrists, over 30 different therapists, counselors and psychologists, and I lost count of how many GPs I've seen.

I knew I couldn't live like this anymore and I was determined to find another way – other than suicide – to live the best life I could.

Don't give up trying, don't give up trying to get better, don't give up fighting for the good life you deserve ... [and] don't take the word "no" for an answer.

Is there anything else we should know?

For many years, I felt that my illness had taken everything from me. One day, when I was sitting in the psych ward, I decided to think about what I wanted. What did I want to be and what did I want to do when I was little? I wanted to write a book, to be an artist, a model, a motivational speaker, a famous rock star, a fashion designer, and I wanted to change the world.

Now when I look at the cause I have devoted my life to (raising awareness about mental health), I realized that it gave me everything I ever wanted. As a mental health advocate, I share my story openly and honestly through my blog, YouTube videos, and social media accounts. I get the chance to connect with hundreds of thousands of people who – I hope – can feel less alone than I did for all those years.

My art has improved because of my inner turmoil, and I have greater empathy for people in all situations in life. I am currently negotiating publishing deals for my first book The Story of a Borderline Princess, and I'm about to release volume 1 of The Bipolar Barbie Diaries – I hope to get the entire seven Installments to be published within the next twelve months.

I am also a rapper working on my first album. Also, I am a fashion designer working on launching my own clothing company called Attitude Apparel where we measure women based on their qualities, not their physical shape.

For many years I thought I knew who I was, but now I know the only thing that matters is for me to try to be the most important thing a person can be – me.

About Bipolar Barbie

My Story: Bipolar Barbie

I am Bipolar Barbie, an Australia social media influencer and mental health advocate. I am a budding author, motivational speaker, artist and rapper with a creative take on living with mental illness.

I am showing the world that social media can be a positive helpful platform and tool if used correctly to help others. I believe any conversation about mental health can be life-changing! However, most people don't know how to talk about such complex and personal issues.

My content is described as informative, relatable, hilarious and heartwarming. What makes me qualified? My own experience with years of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, under the guidance of qualified clinical psychologists who specialize in mood and personality disorders – my knowledge on these conditions has grown. Personal consultations with a range of mental health professionals including nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, personal helpers, and multiple psych ward admissions have helped piece together a recovery plan that works for me.

Battling the war inside my head for so long has made me dedicate my life to spreading awareness about the "invisible illness" to promote a better understanding of the life inside my head. Why do I talk about mental health so openly and honestly? It never occurred to me not to!

People ask me why I chose the name "Bipolar Barbie," and it all started one Sunday afternoon. My housemate asked me why I have so many clothes, and I replied, “Because I have so many different personalities and they each need their own wardrobe.”

Then it dawned on me, I am just like a Barbie doll, waiting to see what outfit I will be dressed in each day, and dressed by another hand.

Barbie has her outfits like nurse barbie, horse riding barbie, dancing barbie and everything in between. I am just like that but in the mentally ill world. My outfits include Manic Barbie, Anxious Barbie, Depressed Barbie, Low Self-Esteem Barbie, Borderline Barbie, and every other emotion or symptom you can imagine.

I candidly share my life, experiences and thoughts on living with multiple mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD, and overcoming drug and alcohol addictions on my platforms. I am also a dedicated women's health advocate raising awareness for premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

I believe in leading by example and being the change you want to see in the world.

Visit Bipolar Barbie's Website

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