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Op-ed: I’m Maddy, and I’m so much more than just bipolar

By Maddy Stutz

First Published Aug 01 2014 05:11 pm • Last Updated Aug 01 2014 05:13 pm

Hello, I’m crazy, insane, a lunatic, nuts, a freak, disturbed, confused, spastic, disabled, mad, mental, weird, different, odd, a problem, scary, ill, brain dead, demented, need a straight-jacket, anti-social, bonkers, childish, distressed, drugged-up, embarrassing, handicapped, indecisive, irrational, lost, not all there, a nutcase, an oddball, paranoid, scary, strange, tiring, unapproachable, unstable, wacky ... bipolar.

 These phrases are what people with mental disorders are eternally stamped with. Tattooed on their hearts by their friends, loved ones, and society, and written in their arms with a blade by themselves. Once the papers are typed and you have your own file at the psychiatrist’s office, you are forever one of the mentally ill; expected to walk around with a disclaimer that you aren’t "emotionally sound."

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 I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It took me time to come to terms with these illnesses. For a long time I thought that no one could know about it because they would abandon me. Worst of all, I thought I deserved to be abandoned. Then one day I had an epiphany. Someone with cancer doesn’t say, "I’m cancer," so why should I say "I’m bipolar"? Why should I let a biological abnormality become my identity while others get the respect and recognition that it is just an illness?

I decided I wanted to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost two years ago. After a year and a half of working on myself and getting emotionally prepared, I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to go because my medications aren’t allowed in the field. I understood the wisdom behind this rule, but I was very frustrated. I felt like I had this drive and passion about serving, and to me it wasn’t far that I couldn’t go but others could. I felt once again that my disorder was defining me. I wasn’t about to let that happen.

My only option left was to go on a church service mission. After a lot of prayer, I decided that was where Heavenly Father wanted me. I work in the Church Office Building on Temple Square as a receptionist in the Publishing Services Department. My name tag may look a little different, but my service in the eyes of the Lord is the same. We can choose to quit when roadblocks are put in our way. We can choose to allow our disorders to define us, and use it as an excuse for not accomplishing our dreams. Or, we can take a stand, push through, and prove to the world that we can do anything.

In addition to my mission, I’ve also been able to do work in the mental health field giving firesides. "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is essential in your cocktail of treatment." This is what I love to teach to youth and young adults.

 Hello, my name is Maddy. I’m loving, passionate, funny, a prankster, a lover of all things breathing, a self-starter, a go-getter, forgiving, insightful, believing, brave, a crier, a hugger, a hot chocolate drinker, a woman’s advocate, a Mormon, a plate collector, a thrift shopper, a movie watcher, a theater junkie, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a breathing human being who is not defined by chemical imbalances in her brain, a person who struggles with bipolar disorder, but not someone who identifies as bipolar. That is not my identity. My identity is Maddy Stutz, a daughter of God.

Maddy Stutz plans on returning to BYU-Idaho to complete her degree in counseling psychology. 




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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