Learning to Embrace my Diagnosis

During a recent Q&A session during my presentation, ‘Understanding Mental Health in Our Congregations,’ I was asked a very important question. A very brave individual raised their hand and said:

“How do you learn to love the side of you that is bipolar?”

This question is essential for a wide range of individuals: those grappling with mental health issues, healthcare providers, family members, supportive friends, and even the broader community. In my experience, the shame of living with a diagnosis is an immense emotional burden. For many years, I turned a great deal of negativity inward. I wished I didn’t have the diagnosis of Bipolar Type 1. So, what changed?

Accepting the part of me that is my mental health condition is an ongoing process.

1. Medical Intervention

Psychiatry and medical care play a specific role in how I perceive my mental health condition. I wouldn’t be well today if I hadn’t undergone psychiatric intervention in an inpatient setting, pharmaceutical therapy, and psychiatric observation. Doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists needed to observe my behavior and make careful decisions. Eventually, this led to my slow return to day-to-day life and reliance on continual medical care. Over the past 14 years, I have followed the directions of medical professionals. I am comfortable with my psychiatric diagnosis because of this long-term period of professional care.

2. A Support Network

Another way I have found self-acceptance is through the help of others. However, a caveat: the love and support of my family could only take me so far. Unfortunately, the same goes for medical professionals. There are limits to how much effective assistance doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, and family members can provide. Expect to encounter massive gaps in your recovery if all you rely on are professionals and family.

There are two places where I have found great free resources for my care: faith communities and peer support groups. They have carried the bulk of the labor when it comes to my ongoing needs. Finding supportive people who will listen and care for me when I need it has nurtured a stronger relationship with myself.

3. Intentional Self Care

Every week, I set aside time to care for myself. Whether it’s time on the basketball court, an evening on the soccer field, a movie night at home, dinner with my AA sponsor, time at a 12-step meeting, a healthy meal, or just a simple hot shower to ease the tension in my muscles, I always try to do something for myself each week. Part of self-acceptance is allowing myself to recommit to a regimen of self-care if I let things slide. I will inevitably get too busy, get caught off guard by life circumstances, lose sleep, and become affected by stress. Often, I think it’s the end of the world when I don’t follow my self-care routine strictly. I have discovered that I need to give myself a lot of grace. If I truly want to learn to love the part of me that is bipolar, then I need to remember that I can’t change my past, but I can try to be gentle with myself today.

How do you practice self acceptance?​

These are the ways that I have found self-acceptance. I know that everyone is different. In the comments, I welcome everyone to share their own tips for accepting yourself. It doesn’t matter if you live with a mental health diagnosis or not. Don’t be shy! When I started sharing about my life I realized others felt more comfortable with themselves. What you share might help someone.

Make sure to comment below!

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

(he/him/his) Pastor- Mental Health Recovery Educator- Blogger


14 Responses

  1. Obey Gods commandments and love one another-including myself. Can’t change our past- can only move forward through grace.

    1. Thanks, Dave!

      Love is hard for me to navigate as a human who makes mistakes and misses the mark. Thank God for grace.

      As for changing the past… I still get caught up thinking about changing my past, even when I am over 14 years into recovery.

  2. Great article, I feel everyone should take time for self care. Thank you for all your valuable information.

    1. I am really happy that this question was asked at the session I taught. It affirms that we need to continue talking about mental health in our congregations.

  3. I push myself to go out and be more social but I limit it to a few hours and a place where I am comfortable at. Afterwards make sure to allow a few hours to decompress and just be.

    1. Thank you Mitzi!

      That sound like a safe and measured approach. I am really happy that you’re embracing something healthy. Thank you for the comment.

  4. I enjoy this immensely helpful as I work on a book about recovery. I am in recovery myself with co-occurring alcoholism and trauma/anxiety issues. Everything you said is honest and raw and right on. I would like to keep reading your work. I was once a member at Elim for over 20 years and find your spirit to be most refreshing and compelling.

    Thank you for all you do.

    1. Holly!

      Thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate the support. Comments like this keep me thinking of new ways I can engage dialogue about addiction, faith and mental health.

  5. For me, it is embracing my friendly bold side and being patient with myself and others. None of us are perfect. Perfectionism is a HUGE contributor to my mania.

    I also realize that, despite outward boldness, I will always be passive to passive aggressive. RARELY will I ever explode at anyone. I feel like I have developed a more confident and stronger focus of control..thanks to my buddy Ryan

    I have also started to REALLY work on my listening skills. Also thanks to Ryan S from ages ago.Now, I have also come to down to earth from an heightened level of Idealism. But I will never stop seeing a world that is more peaceful whatever I have to do.

    And nobody can take away Monster Tweetie, Linus Van Pelt, Grandma Dynamite, Sgt. Uniblab, and the EEP OPP ORK Singers from me. Deal with. And my loved ones usually due.

    Also, there is nothing like a good punny joke..and just a smidge of well-placed and timed sarcasm.

    I love to it hurts, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I embrace that part of me!!! I laugh a little more and yes, I get joyfully aand tearfully deep. who says you need a spouse. Life is good at 51.

    with great affection and un abrazo a todos en Cristo
    Steve Bartz

    1. Thank you Steve! Sounds like you have a lot of support! My support group has been huge and it is essential to have fun with the people that support you.

      I’m glad that you said you embrace your friendly bold side. I struggle having fun from time to time when I am coping with the day to day tending of my recovery.

      Thanks Steve.

      1. Seth, I am pulling for you that you that you find long-lasting peace in your recovery. I have gone to GA…and Nic Anon. I understand the concept of recovery. And, Its really freeing knowing that God has a sense of humor. You should see my hairstyle right now. God told me to get a haircut, he shook his head and laughed. With lightheartedness, empathy and lots of love in Christ. Hang in there my friend. You are an amazing man. I would like to see you preach at your church

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This week, after speaking at church in the Metro Twin Cities, I was asked a question that prompted me to define why I write and speak about mental health in faith communities.