Stigma Fighters: Yan Shmatnik

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Stigma Fighters: Yan Shmatnik

Imagine a vivid lucid dream where everything revolves around you. You feel all powerful, ultra-confident, and are extremely persuasive. It’s a highly euphoric state. Now, imagine that you believe that dream to be your reality. That is mania and it’s the ultimate high.

Hi, I’m Yan Shmatnik and I live with bipolar disorder.

You hear about mental illnesses but you never believe it would happen to you. Especially without a known family history of being predisposed to them. I was diagnosed almost 9 years ago at 21 years old during what was suppose to be my final year of college. An immense feeling of disbelief washes over you and you begin to feel sick to your stomach. Why did this happen to me? This can’t happen to me!

Education & Acceptance

I had a highly rough 15 year plan after high school. It did not include getting diagnosed bipolar. It happened however and eventually you find your peace with it, or at least I did. Acceptance is almost a constant struggle and true acceptance took me years to discover. I believe it’s made that much more difficult through lack of education on mental illness and misconceptions.

As humans we tend to fear the unknown. I was not only highly uninformed but also misinformed about bipolar disorder and mental health in general. I was scared, lonely, and uncomfortable. A person may feel the same way getting diagnosed with any disease, but for some reason a disease of the mind is harder to swallow. We know so little about the mind and significantly less of mood disorders.

Guilt tends to set in even more with mood disorders. Why? Perhaps it’s due to the name of this classification of disease. A disorder in your mood… It seems like something we should be able to control more so than a disease. It is a disease however and it’s something extremely difficult to “control.” [I elaborate more on this topic on my site in my post titled “Control & Guilt: A Commentary On Bipolar.”]

It is our duty to educate ourselves as best as we can about our mental health. Knowledge is the best weapon against fear. The more I began to know about bipolar disorder the faster and better I got.

A New Life

I used to plan. I still do to a degree but not nearly as far into the future as I once did. Life is unpredictable. That is something my diagnosis taught me. So what can I do to counter the chaos? I discovered the only thing I could do is to persevere. To not let my diagnosis consume me, to dig deep into the power of the human will, and to overcome any obstacle that would hinder my goals.

I learned that through our trials and tribulations we come to find our true selves. What we are capable and how we want to define ourselves. I live with bipolar, I am not bipolar.


Yan Shmatnik, a web designer by trade, has recently begun a journey to put his mental health first and started the site He writes about his research into bipolar disorder and tweets often under the handle @youandyan.

Yan can be found on his blog and Twitter.

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By | 2015-10-23T17:08:27+00:00 October 23rd, 2015|Categories: Bipolar, Stigma Fighters|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Dee October 23, 2015 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    This was so moving. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful essay!

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