Making Sense Of Being Different

Story By: Cianna Allen

Cianna Allen
Cianna Allen


The other day, during a bonding activity at my sorority’s retreat, we were all asked, “What makes you stand out from a crowd?” I responded with my height, because as a 5’11” woman, my height literally makes me stand out from a crowd.

However, that’s not what I really wanted to say. What I wanted to say was, “The way my mind works and the way that I feel things.” But of course I didn’t say that out loud.

I am bipolar, and it has affected almost every aspect of my life in one way or another.

My junior year of high school I was diagnosed with a mood disorder – the most general way of saying my emotions were messed up and to some degree uncontrollable. By the end of my senior year, my psychiatrist diagnosed me as mildly bipolar. 

When I was given this diagnosis, I was weirdly relieved. I could finally say that there was a reason I was always a little different than my peers. There was a reason that I had such a difficult time getting along with my family. There was a reason I could go from feeling giddy and electric to feeling sullen and depressed in a matter of minutes.

But along with that feeling of relief was a feeling of fear. I worried that I would not be able to maintain healthy relationships with friends, boyfriends, even my own mom. I didn’t want to tell people for fear of being thought of as unstable and abnormal. And more than anything, I was afraid to go to college with this mental disability- afraid that without my best friends and family from home, I would be sad, confused, and utterly alone. My first year of college was rough. I went through many “best friends”, cried a lot of tears, went through stages of intense homesickness, and felt the full weight and burden of my mental disorder. 

Now, as a junior in college, I have gotten to the point where I have come to terms with my disorder, have divulged my “secret” to my friends and family, and am willing to discuss it with others. This doesn’t mean, however, that I am willing to let it define me. When I tell people about my bipolar disorder, many of them respond with something along the lines of, “It’s okay! I understand that’s just who you are. You can’t help it!” Which is true—partially. No, I can’t necessarily “help it”. There is no cure to bipolar, but rather remedies for the symptoms. There is medication and therapy and a variety of other tools that can help the effects of bipolar, but in the end, I can’t change it. I can, however, keep it from defining me. I am not ashamed of my bipolar disorder, but it is also not all that I am.

I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, a writer, and a singer. I am intelligent, and empathetic, and giving, and outgoing, and compassionate.

I am so many things. 

Bipolar is simply one of them.


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