The Different from the Other Kids team would like to welcome back Christina Tsounis, a 23-year-old living with a Bipolar diagnosis. Through her own words, Christina explains how powerful labels can be and how over-labelling can be harmful to one’s health and recovery.
By: Christina Tsounis
At six years old I was diagnosed and medicated for OCD, anxiety, depression and Tourettes syndrome. By the time I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. However, in the last year, I have had a complete 180 turn in my life. I went from the “sick girl” to the “I can do anything girl”. I keep getting asked how I have been able to turn my bipolar symptoms around. As I reflect back, I realize one of the biggest things it comes down to, is what I become what I believe. Let me explain…
As a child, I remember always being told something was wrong with me. I was told I was sick, and that I had to take pills to be healthy. What was my mother supposed to do when I was a suicidal six-year-old? My point is that from that age I believed I was mentally ill. I used to believe my diagnosis was a curse. I used Bipolar as my identity. Everything I did reflected me being sick. All my actions reflected the fact that I was bipolar because I believed it.
I remember that I would get into emotional states and feel trapped. Everyone used to say, “Christina, you’re overreacting”. Drama queen was my nickname. I grew up believing that when I would feel emotional, it wasn’t normal to feel like that and I was overdramatic. I had no idea how to control those emotions, and then I wasn’t allowed to feel them.
As I got older, the belief that I was sick got stronger. All I heard from every doctor and therapist was “Christina you are bipolar. This is going to be the rest of your life. You’re going to have to try and manage. With the right medication, you may be able to have an okay one.” What does that do to a young person’s perception? Nothing good!
About a year ago, I had a turning point. I had been working with a spiritual healer and taught me a lot about meditation and being still. I called her one day hysterically crying. I told her that I was just feeling everything too intensely. She calmly said, “So what, you’re allowed to feel like that Christina.” I stopped crying almost immediately. For the first time in my life, someone had told me I was allowed to feel. I was allowed to be hysterical. She gave me permission to feel emotions. She never saw bipolar in me – she only saw Christina. I can never thank her enough for that day. She showed me nothing was wrong with me. It’s an illness, not an excuse and not who I am.
Having bipolar doesn’t mean your crazy. When someone has cancer, society doesn’t tell them something is wrong with them. We are all trapped in the idea that mental illness is a life sentence and that you are “loony” if you have one. I believe that just like cancer, mental illness can go into remission. I used to wake up every day bipolar – now I wake up just being Christina. I know this illness lays within me and I know its something I deal with, but it’s just a small part of me.
I also know I am in control of my destiny. The very thing I thought was going to destroy me, gave me life. My illness gave me a purpose and gave me understanding. I know when you’re in it, the feeling can be almost impossible to see out of… But I promise you, you can be healthy. Your life will reflect that back to you.