On bipolar…


I posted this on http://forfreepsychology.wordpress.com/  Like it here, like it there.  🙂

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rollercoaster

I am not Bipolar.  I have Bipolar.  It is not me, and I live with it, but I do not allow it to have me.

I know, this is all quibbling with language, but when we use language to think, to define ourselves and who we are, our words and their meanings become vital.  All to often, people are classified, or classify themselves as “Bipolar”, as if it were a nationality, culture, heritage or something that defines who we are.

I refuse.

Cancer patients don’t call themselves,”Cancerous”, although Cancer decides much of what they do and how they live.  They have Cancer.  Some lie down and allow their lives to go the way they go.  Some fight tooth and nail.  Some ignore it completely, living with it to the end.  There may be an exception somewhere to this, but I haven’t met anyone who said,”I am cancerous.”  They have it.

So, that’s my attitude.  It’s not for everyone, and if you are a “Bipolar” and embrace it, then good for you.  It’s not for me.

How do I fight?

First of all, I take the position that, despite the way my decision making abilities are tied to my emotion and energy and the way that they don’t always make any rational sense, I am the decision maker here.  If I choose to start behaving in a way that is a danger to myself or someone else, I made that choice.  I own it.  It may have been a poor choice, and may have been helped along by having Bipolar, but I made the decision to do X.  No one made me do it but me.

This position has it’s good and bad points.  It allows me to claim control over something, when internally it’s as if I’m mostly an observer.  Society appears to be all in favor of me lying down and claiming,”But, I’m bipolar, and I am out of control.”  I don’t want that.  I am 36 years old.  I’m a father, and if one of my kids says,”I was out of control”, as a parent, I still punish them for acting badly.  I have more control than a 4 or 8 or 12 year old, even if that control extends only to,”This is getting too hard, I need help.”  It allows me to live and be productive and helpful and a positive influence on my friends and family.  It makes me “happy”.

Secondly, I pay attention.  I pay a LOT of attention to what is going on with me internally.  For example:  Right now, I am a tad stressed, but not bad.  I’m on an “upswing” towards a potential hypo or hyper manic phase, but I won’t know how far it will go until I get there, but I know it bears careful attention to my sleeping patterns and closer scrutiny of decision making.  My chest has that odd “excitement/panic/fear/happiness” tingle to it.  My muscles are “sparkly” as I describe it, that sensation of when the adrenalin is about to drop into your system before a competitive race or something.  My thoughts are quick, but not racing, yet.  This all means that my patience is less, my temper is shorter, and I should probably not make any major decisions on my own and without reflection right now.

I know what I need to do, and the decision is mine as to whether to do the things that will allow me to continue to live and be a “good” influence on those around me or not.

Third, I try to focus my energy on things that are intangible , if I have an excess.  If I am manic and not sleeping, I will try to make myself consider philosophical thoughts, and if possible, engage someone in discussion.  Maybe I’ll pay attention to a social issue, and research it until I feel that I can come to a reasonable conclusion.  Maybe I’ll work on some creative writing.  I know that, me being me, I should try to avoid people that might take advantage of my heightened energy and such until it calms down.

I know what you may be thinking,”That’s not what so many other people say/think/write”.  Nope.  It’s not.  This is what works for me and how I think.

Should Bipolar be fought against or embraced?  I think that’s a decision each of us has to make on our own.  To me, embracing bipolar means “riding the roller coaster”, or more accurately, trying to form my life to where the roller coaster takes me.  If it were just me that I was responsible for, this might be a reasonable choice for me, but other people are effected by everything I say and do.  I choose to accept this responsibility to those people I love and care about and try to set aside my own feelings as I can.

Sometimes, it gets to be too much, and I have to tell everyone that I must take a break.  They can react how they like, but sometimes I have to tell the rest of the world that, for a little while, they can all go hang, or they will be without my influence.  This is a complication to the way I deal with life that the average “boss” will not accept or understand, and that’s ok.  I live within the means that I am able to create for myself or have access to.

I am an individual.  I am not Bipolar, I have it.  It does not define me, that is something I choose.  I do not fit into the “bipolar” category.  I don’t think that anyone really does.  Sometimes I am up so high that the world seems distant and beside the point.  Sometimes I’m so low that the world is monster threatening to destroy me.  It is not those times where I can do this stuff on my own.

So, I work on it.  I think through things, to the point that I research and plan things to the point of it being ridiculous at times.  My thought process is slow and complex, as I sort through information and determine the importance of it in order to come to a decision.  The way I do things internally doesn’t work out very well if I choose to follow an unplanned impulse.  I don’t do well in oral conversation, not having time to think about what I’m trying to say or having an easy way to rewind what has been said and make sure that my own impressions are accurate.  It allows me to live, though, and I’m used to it now.

There have been times I was in a hospital because, well, that’s where the rollercoaster had taken me.  I rode the rollercoaster into a dark, seemingly unending depression, or a manic phase dotted with delusions and hallucinations, or worse, into some bizarre mix of hyperactivity and depression, or a complete lack of energy and a nice dose of racing thoughts and grand ideas that, while grand, were impossible.

It has not been an easy road.  I did not get to this point at the flip of a switch or by taking a magic pill.  I have been fighting for 20 years since my first episode.  Therapy, meds of various kinds, and lots and lots of internal work and thought and reflection.

I know that it only takes a small slip to wind up back in a hospital, so I am careful.  If I see that I am on the way “up” or “down” or otherwise entering a realm where my decisions may not be the greatest, I try to act ahead of time, talking to people who will help me to make good decisions and good choices that allow me to continue.  If the help I get in “public” is not enough, then I may seek something more intensive, but I avoid that option if possible.

I am not bipolar.  I have it.  It does not define me.  I do that.  This is my mantra.  Every day that I wake up and lead a relatively normal appearing existence is a success.  Every day that I wake up and simply live, exist, function enough to get things done that make others’ lives easier is a success.  The only failure, for me, is to board the rollercoaster and raise my hands and let life happen to me.

Will it work for you?  That’s up to you.  Do I think anyone else should or should not choose to fight and live as I do?  No.  That’s up to you and your life and situation.  This is mine though.

It’s my life.  Because I am not bipolar.  I am me.  I am an individual.  I can not be defined as bipolar any more than I can define you as bipolar.  Who you are is your choice.  It may be the only choice you get to make, so make the choice that will make you happy and that will allow you to live as well as possible.

But, I define myself, and I am not bipolar.  I have it.

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🙂

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206 Comments

Filed under Mental Health, Philosophical Q&A, Thoughts

206 responses to “On bipolar…

  1. When I’m stable and rational and maybe even a little bit hypomanic it’s easy to maintain this attitude, for me anyway. It’s obvious. But when I slip into the pit of depression it’s not such a facile explanation and doesn’t even make sense to me. Of course I Am bipolar then. It’s my whole world and I can’t see out of it. When I come out of my depression I can be OK again and just have the illness. But that’s the nature of this disease isn’t it? It isn’t always one way or another despite our best intentions. I’m glad if you can always keep this positive attitude. I can’t. Right now It’s a toss up frankly.
    wishing you the best,
    Steve

    • It’s a struggle. I fight with one direction or the other frequently, too. Depression is it’s own hell, and it’s hard to see out of when you’re in it.

      All I can say is that it helps me, when depressed, to think of bipolar as a thing-a separate thing. Something that is trying to control me. I’m pretty rebellious against such things, and this idea helps me get out of bed and do what I need to even though it is hell.

      Check out some of my other stuff-one fairly recent one was my interior working on a “down” day. I don’t think that there is anyone who has bipolar that can maintain the positive outlook ALL the time… but it helps to try, for me. 🙂

  2. At one time I was “tagged” Bi-Polar, after other diagnoses. What I eventually learned is that anyone with symptoms of Bi-Polar needs to have their hormones check, especially Free T4 and Free T3. The decision tree I saw on one diagnostic tree would not consider Bi-Polar until after thyroid problems had been ruled out. In my case I also had to learn how to deal with anger…but I have that in my book.

    .http://wp.me/p3WxfF-J

    • It’s true. Before someone ‘settles in’ to work with the experience of having bipolar, it’s best that, if they have the resources, they get everything else tested. Symptoms can be caused that can be misread as bipolar by all sorts of things, to include thyroid issues and sleep disorders.

      That said, sometimes treating all of that stuff doesn’t do much for a person, and they still have to deal with having the illness. 🙂

      • Yes, that is difficult…ones thinks less of oneself…part of the whole stigmatizing society. I was studying about Indian culture at the time and learned that often those whom we call c…., are considered touched by the holy one or something like that. I don’t remember the precise terms now as it was long agol

  3. Reblogged this on Twizted Butterflies and commented:
    I have bi polar. I hate living with it. This is a very touching piece and hits every aspect and almost everything I feel. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Thank you for describing this so elegantly. I shared it with my friends and family who don’t always understand why I sometimes can’t make it to dinner with them, or have to bail on something at the last minute. They don’t understand why I often put off making decisions when there appears to be only one reasonable option to choose from. They *know* why, but *knowing* and *understanding* are rarely the same thing,
    Again, thank you.

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  6. This is an inspiring post to all who are both battling and embracing their bipolar nature. Interesting too, if I may add.

    I think I might have bipolar too, but I don’t think about it too much. I don’t think of it as a disease; rather, I think of it as a condition that my mind has temporarily lapsed into. I can try to control it, and I can try to not let it define me. I know I can be better than just a girl with bipolar disorder. I know that that is not the only thing that defines me. It is merely a part of me, and sometimes, when I am able to get over a certain manic episode, I become overjoyed because I feel like I’m able to take control of myself.

  7. I’ve struggled with depression for six years now, and I’ve just been diagnosed as Bipolar 2, meaning I only get hypomania, not full blown. Thank you for this post, about your process, and your self-reflection, and how you ask for help when you might be swinging up or down. I’m learning how to manage my moods, and how to communicate with my support networks, and I love reading about other people who are successfully doing a similar approach. Excellent writing.

  8. I would like to thank you for writing this post. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I at age 18. I am so glad you said how being Bipolar doesn’t define me or you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Thanks again.

  9. I really love this post! I have Bipolar and to think about it this way gives it a new light. Thank you!

  10. I value your acceptance of what you deal with along with the responsibility to rein it in. I do not suffer from bipolar disorder, but have been in the midst of those who do certifiably deal with it. They were not pleasant experiences, but who cares, sane people make life unbearable on occasion too.. I value the fact that you see yourself as needing to stay on top of your ‘ride’, acknowledging your ‘ups and downs’ and all the sensations that are associated with them. Thank you for sharing, expressing your own credible, yet personal, insight…..

  11. I want to thank you for this post. My sister was diagnosed with having bipolar four years ago. I was so resistant with believing such diagnosis because bipolar is not something that just arises out of no where. Yes, she abused drugs and alcohol for ten plus years prior to her diagnosis. Meth was her drug of choice for years and with any drug, tolerance rises. She began hallucinating one day in a grocery store which seen her first involuntary hospitalization. At first, the doctors diagnosed her as schizophrenic, but as therapy progressed forward, they changed the diagnosis to bipolar. Her personality does match what you describe here and I never really understood what went on inside her. This definitely offers me insight and I am grateful towards your candid honesty here. I feel a bit more connected with her now and I think I can understand her better during her “manic” moments. I only wish she would stay on her medications. I don’t understand why she continues to choose to refrain from taking these medications when there is a solid pattern of how much it helps. Do you find it difficult to take your medications on a consistent basis? How does the medication affect you? She describes it as she feels nothing at all. A walking, rational zombie that has no real connection with anything and she says she hates that aspect of the medication. They help with maintaining a certain balance emotionally, apathy. Is the same true for you or does this mean she needs to readjust her meds? I know these are rather pointed, personal questions so you really do not need to answer them if you feel them to be too personal. I would really like to understand a bit more about this condition that seems to be ruining my sister’s life. Again, I thank you for being so open about this!

    • I have actually considered writing a post about medication,but I fear that it may actually “turn people off” to taking it as they are supposed to. That said, let me answer your questions.

      Do you find it difficult to take your medications on a consistent basis? That depends on a few things, but the biggest two things would be finances and side effects. For the most part, no, it’s easy enough to take the meds, I usually just joke about simply poring milk over them and calling them my meal replacement. 🙂 Finances can be an issue, as generics are not available for every medication. There are usually other meds that will do the job, though, or symptoms and side effects I can “learn to live with”, but that doesn’t make it any less of a pain to do.

      How does the medication affect you? One medication I take is “lithium carbonate”. It’s an older drug and pretty well researched, even if they haven’t nailed down why it helps. Check this page: http://www.drugs.com/sfx/lithium-carbonate-side-effects.html

      I want you to read all the effects and notice a couple of statements: 1) “patients sensitive to lithium may exhibit toxic signs at serum levels below 1.5 mEq/L” and 2) “These side effects are an inconvenience rather than a disabling condition, and usually subside with continued treatment or a temporary reduction or cessation of dosage. If persistent, a cessation of dosage is indicated

      What these two things translate into when dealing with doctors, for me: “I understand that you are having these effects, but you have to just keep taking the medication. It does seem to help, and, eventually, they will subside.”

      This brings me to another point of the experience-overmedication. Doctors will try to treat you with medication for every symptom and side effect you have. At one time I was taking Depakote, klonopin, risperdal, seroquel, prazosin, effexor, and a couple of others. I was, for all intents and purposes, a zombie. I was calm, I was not unhappy, but I had almost no “feeling” and my thoughts were brief and simple.

      Think about that for a second. Me. Someone who loves to write, loves philosophy and art, enjoys seeking beauty in mundane places-all things which require intellect and clarity of thought. All of that was out of reach. I could sit and watch TV, but I couldn’t maintain my thoughts enough to play more complex video games. I was also basically narcoleptic, falling asleep every time my eyelids closed.

      I can see when all this medication could be reasonable-in response to a severe manic or depressive or mixed episode. In order to be able to treat bipolar, a person needs to be as close to “baseline” as they can and work on medications that cause them to stray too far from that baseline. If I were in the hospital, or in the doctor’s office regularly because I was suicidal or something, I’d quickly be given a large number of meds.

      I now take only four medications, and that is only because I came across a doctor that was willing to listen to me and accept that I wanted to be a partner with him in my treatment, and not just a patient. I came to doctor’s appointments with printouts and research I had done on my own, and a willingness to flatly refuse to continue taking a medication that I felt I could show that I had side effects that were subjectively worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat. I was always calm when I met with him for those sessions, and reasoned with him about them as well as trying to be extremely honest about my experiences.

      I was lucky.

      Most people go into a panic at the Doctor’s, and sometimes with good reason. Many doctor’s have the idea that,”I am educated and simply know more than you, so your problems are irrelevant.” Many are also overworked, swamped with so many clients they just don’t have time to listen to everything the patient had to say.

      Combining the experience in the doctor’s office with the experience of side effects and combating the symptoms all at the same time is a terrifying prospect for anyone, too. That’s what goes through my mind any time someone says “adjust your meds”. Another period of weeks or months where I am basically taking a pill that I am almost guaranteed to experience something new that sucks which may or may not help with the things I know that already suck. For at least the first couple of weeks, I am almost guaranteed to have a worsening of symptoms while the drug “gets in my system”… but I will almost immediately have side effects that may or may not go away with time.

      I think this process is a major part of why so many people who have bipolar turn to suicide. If this is all my life is going to be, then what is the point? I have been at that point, and have the scars to prove it. I wasn’t quite desperate enough to successfully follow through with it, but the desire to end the suffering I was experiencing by being “on the roller coaster” which was being compounded by my experiences with medication was ridiculously strong, adding to my own lack of stability… for which they wanted to try another medication… and on and on into a downward spiral.

      I wish I had some solutions to offer at this point. I have some suggestions, but they will all require quite a bit of work and bravery on the part of your sister.

      1: Journal what you experience. Every up, down, weird sensation, thing someone else noticed. Everything. Put it in there and then try to identify the things that you don’t like or that impair your ability to pursue what you see as happiness.

      2: Research your meds and illness. There are a number of excellent publicly available resources on the internet for this purpose. This way, you can go back to your journal and say,”Ok, so this is not a part of my base illness, but a part of the medication. Is this worse than what I experience with my illness?” If you decide that it is, try to get into the doctor as soon as possible, and make it a point to take your journal and your research with you. Show the doctor that you are working to try to get control of your illness and not just relying on their knowledge. If they try to tell you not to do the research, well, the best I can say is to find a new doctor. A doctor who is willing to respect you and work with you in your research is priceless and vital.

      3: Talk about it with other people who have bipolar. Tell them what you are feeling. Listen to what they feel and experience. Everyone has a different experience, but there are some things that ring true for everyone I have ever met who had bipolar. There’s nothing like thinking you are completely alone in your experiences and then finding that there are others who share some of the same experiences within the illness. It’s nice to come across a person who can make jokes about it as well-and most of the jokes by people with bipolar about the experience are frowned on by people who do not have the illness.

      An example-Nobody can party like a manic. To an average person who doesn’t experience having bipolar-more often than not people are aghast. It’s like we’re promoting the idea that mania is a good thing and to be desired. The secret-mania is a lot like being high, the problem is that if you stay high all the time it’s hard to “have a life” at the same time. People with bipolar and experience mania know this and can talk about that while passing stories about wild times and laughing, and knowledge can be shared and attitudes helped. It’s hard to do anything but stop talking when the other person is harping on how bad your “pleasant/funny” memory is.

      4. The hell with what other people think. They aren’t in your skin, and so long as you are not hurting anyone or doing something illegal, do what makes you happy. (I honestly think the world would be a better place if everyone rolled with this one, but it’s kind of vital for someone with bipolar)

      5. Find joy. This can be tough, I know, when you feel like you are physically shaking apart inside and you are caught on the roller coaster, but there’s almost always SOMETHING. Does music calm you? Listen to it. Does reading distract you? Read. Do games keep you safe-both from the internal goings on as well as potentially making bad decisions while working out how to deal with the illness? Then play them. Every moment of your life should not be about the illness. If you find methods of thinking or planning that help you, it will take time and practice and failure to turn them into habits you don’t even notice anymore, and that sucks. During that time, make sure to do some things that let your brain rest a bit from everything. Take time to listen to the rain or check out a meteor shower. Go to a petting zoo and pet a baby animal. Play with a kitten or a puppy. There’s an old irish saying that I will now misquote: “Life is a series of tragedies and unrelenting sadness, occasionally lit by moments of astounding awe and joy.” Nobody lives for sadness or tragedy. Nobody lives for mundane things, even. We are driven to things which give us joy, no matter how small the amount. Let yourself enjoy things. Believe me-I enjoy a nice hypomanic state when I can get one, and I will enjoy it while I watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t keep going up into the realm of true mania. But believe me, when I’m there, I enjoy it. If I’m on a downswing, I’ll let myself enjoy some of that, whether it’s the sleep or watching tear-jerking movies or whatever gives me joy at the time.

      Understand, too, that I am not a professional, and your sister may not experience any of this as I have explained it. Most people with bipolar use comparisons and imagery to try and draw a picture of what they experience for people who don’t experience the same things. It’s a lot like explaining blue to a blind man, or Beethoven to a person born deaf. The experience will never be the same for the two, and only poorly translated.

      Your job, though, is both simple and difficult, if you choose to take it up.

      Ask her what she needs, and accept what she says. “I need some time alone” means exactly that. “I need to talk” means she needs to talk. “I want to go/do X” means that she wants to do whatever it is. If it’s not reasonable for whatever reason, try to explain it to her using real explanations without talking “down” to her. Make sure she knows that you WANT to be there for her and that you respect her enough as a person to be willing to believe what she says when it comes to what she is experiencing. Hold her accountable for her bad choices and roll with choices that are absurd but not “bad”. In other words, no illegal activities, but hey, you want to hit the pool at 3AM? Meh, why not?

      What I’m trying to get at is that you have to learn to be a bit absurd, because bipolar is an absurd illness. The more control over her own life and destiny and medication she feels she has, the more control over the illness she will find. It’s a helluva road, and at the four year mark I was completely lost in it. If it would help, tell her to get in touch with me. I’ll do whatever I can. 🙂

      • Wow! Thank you so much for this reply! I cannot fathom the emotional toil that this illness may partake upon anyone and the more I learn about it, the more I truly understand the difficulties my sister faces on a daily basis. A lot of past behavior patterns and decisions, I am only just now piecing it all together and saying, “AH HA!” So THAT’S why she did this or that…OK. It’s really great, the understanding that comes with the knowledge; yet, on the flip side it does induce just as many questions as it answers. I know I will never truly understand my sister and all the battles she is faced with each waking moment. Not just with this illness but with her addiction problems mounted atop, I just worry about her. My poor mother has done all she could for her since the diagnosis has been made; yet, with my sister’s constant refusal towards taking her medications regularly (as they help quell those addiction cravings) my mom has reluctantly taken a step back from “hero” for the time being. Now, we are seeing my sister about to become homeless and there really is nothing we can do for her at this time because the very thing that helps her with maintaining her life, she refuses. I get the entire aspect of how these medications can affect folks and what not; what baffles me where my sister is concerned is the simple fact that she chooses Meth over and over again. I doubt the Meth had anything to do with her being bipolar as her behavior was questionable before-I do think it makes her symptoms and illness worse than what it used to be, for sure. Before her foray into the Meth universe, she would have her manic times where she would just stay up all night cleaning and listening to music. Some of what she would write during those times were so beautiful and inspiring. After a few days, her “down” time would arrive in which she would sleep for hours on end and if you stirred her sleep in the slightest, she turned into Hitler wanting to put us all in the gas chambers…those fluctuating ups and downs, they were hard to witness because there is just so much that my sister is capable of doing, yet this illness seems to just rule her instead of her trying to rule the illness. I will pass on your wisdom to my family and see where we can go from here. I will also see to it that my sister gets the URL to your blog and I hope she contacts you as you are probably the only person she may listen to since you both share in that commonality. All I can do is hope! Again, Thank you! 🙂

      • Addiction is a separate, and horrific, problem. People who have bipolar mania tend to love stimulants, as they push us into a manic state-which I mentioned, is alot like a high in and of itself.

        I hope I get to talk to her. I sent you my email and FB info by email as well, should you guys desire more direct contact. 🙂

  12. Well said, but your posting mentions delusions, which suggests a schizophrenic blend with your bipolar disorder. You are “in charge” as long as you have insight, but when insight goes, there may be problems.

    • Consider this: (credit:http://www.pendulum.org/diagnosis.html)

      Bipolar and Schizophrenia – What’s the Difference?

      Bipolar disorder is one of the many brain diseases that shares symptoms with schizophrenia; this leads to mistaken diagnoses, especially in children. It’s important to know that individuals with bipolar disorder, even those that display psychotic symptoms as a feature of their illness, never meet the full diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. Someone with bipolar disorder is not always in either a manic or a depressive phase; he or she may have long periods during which they seem virtually symptom-free (does not have the disordered thinking, delusions, voices, or other symptoms that characterize schizophrenia). Likewise, any psychotic symptoms associated with bipolar disorder should occur within the context of a manic or a depressive state – delusions of grandeur and hallucinations may be either wildly optimistic and grandiose, or completely disastrous and guilt-ridden.

      Schizo-affective disorder is a disease that does contain elements of both schizophrenia and bipolar – it can be described as “schizophrenia with a mood component.” The major distinguishing difference between schizo-affective and bipolar with psychotic symptoms is that to be diagnosed schizoaffective, an individual must display the symptoms of schizophrenia (i.e. hallucinations, delusions, etc) without accompanying mood symptoms of mania or depression. In a diagnosis of bipolar, an individual may not always be symptomatic, but within an episode schizophrenia-like symptoms are in the context of mania or depression.

      Trust me, I have been researching this illness and how it affects me personally for years. Schizophrenia and psychosis are both things I took a hard look at before disregarding them, except as “axis 2” possibilities. You are right, as delusions are a part of schizophrenia and hallucinations tend to be a part of psychosis, but they really only manifest strongly when at an “extreme” point of a swing. I have “psychotic features” because I have had the occasional hallucination without a noticeable “swing”.

      All of that said, I strongly believe that it is in the best interests of anyone with bipolar, especially if it incapacitates them in some way, take a very close look at what their other symptoms may be. Schizophrenia, Depression, and Psychosis all have “overlapping” symptoms, and misdiagnosis in psychiatry is almost an expectation.

  13. Reblogged this on joeyrrose and commented:
    Such a great post! It’s definitely worth checking out.

  14. Reblogged this on Psychological Sleeping Pills and commented:
    I’m not bipolar, neither do I have it, although maybe I have experienced a bit of the symptoms before.. but nonetheless…

  15. Miss Cynic

    We all seems to ride on a similar roller coaster… it is a constant battle…

    Unfortunately, unlike cancer, we didn’t catch this because of cell mutations… we are born with it. Our brain wired differently…

    Being a bipolar is a part of my character… it does not described who I am. It is a part of me.

    And I definitely agree with you, you control yourself. you control who you are. I never needed meds until recently when I almost cannot function. But I know I’ve been a bipolar my whole life.

    Stay strong brother… we’re all in the same boat – though I believe my boat is less rockier than yours.

  16. Powerful! Thank you for sharing yourself with us – you’re amazing 😀

  17. I can’t begin to express how wonderful this blog was. It was well written and gave me such an insight as to what someone who has bipolar goes through. I commend you for reaching deep inside yourself and finding out who you are and learning what works for you. We have human beings walking around who are not bothered or tested with such struggles who know nothing about themselves…they just drift in the wind. I admire you. I admire your courage and the work you put in to keeping yourself healthy. How wonderful you are!!

    God bless!

  18. This is a really great post. I just wrote on my own about how the adjectives people give us don’t define us. I applaud you for bringing attention to that. And thank you for a great insight into what you think and feel. I think a lot of people can definitely benefit from your words!

  19. SR

    Reblogged this on Neybin's and commented:
    I am that I am. I am not an illness!

  20. “Life on the (Bi) Polar Express”

    I belong to an “elite” club, the Bipolar Express.

    Engine, sad like Eeyore, caboose fast and loose.

    I puff forward and backward, East or West.

    Barreling, barely on track, or crashing and failed.

    Life is either an uphill battle or a downward slant.

    On the fast track or derailed,

    “ I think I can, I think I cant”

    Quiet depression, manic rave and rant

    Am I the hangman or the noose?

    I try to juggle the teeter-totter stress.

    Life is dull and dark or rapid delight;

    internally my emotions often a mess.

    A shade in a world of black and white

    or a shining orb floating in sparkling light.

    Unbalanced, I feel MORE or LESS.

    Each day is a mystery I must confess;

    A black cloud or rainbow delight is anyone’s guess.

    My emotional temperature, my rapid cycling unrest

    does not make me feel God-blessed.

    But there is a rainbow in my cloud of duress;

    Being bipolar is an artistic caress.

    Humor, poetry and music, brightly dressed;

    These creative expressions allow emotion some rest.

    • This is awesome! You are very talented! 🙂

      • 🙂 I thought this was pertinent to your story, and I definitely relate to it! If you like poetry my poetry blog is linked to my main one. I have another, very dark, bipolar poem coming out soon on that blog. And I agree with you wholeheartedly, I have the condition but I am not the condition!

  21. I love this. So well said, as much as mental illness steers our actions, we are not the illness, we are essentially ourselves. How easy it is to be lost in labels though! Xoxo

  22. Excellent post. It sounds like we ride the same roller coaster much of the time, although it took a therapist to point out to me the value of “having” Bipolar, rather than “being” Bipolar. Ironic, considering write. Of course both you (and she) are correct. I’ve been battling the dragon quite a bit longer than you (diagnosed, misdiagnosed and undiagnosed — I venture I’m a good deal older than you are) but have come to many of the same conclusions and commend you for coming to the relatively quickly (although I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way to you. You seem to know yourself and your disorder quite well, appear to be what I would call a compliant patient (ie. willing to take a doctor you trust’s advice) and are not adverse to being hospitalized when it’s necessary. For me, there was a time when I would say, “a year without a hospitalization was a banner year” — I’m coming up on seven years now (knock wood and definitely not sounding smug) but have come to terms with many parts of the illness. There were years prior to that when

    • Oops – sorry, posted before I was ready…notice it’s a pretty lengthy entry in any case, so think I’ll just sign off. Thanks for your candid courageous article. The more people like you, the sooner the stigma goes away, in my view anyhow.

  23. passinglight

    It may just be language but I like your divisions, very true. It’s not you.

  24. carmenaidacreates

    I can understand why you say this. I too am diagnosed Bipolar I. I know it is an integral part of who I am. It is a part of me; as I am a part of it. While manic depression (as I call it) has most definitely taken from me, it has also – paradoxically – given. As Dr. K.Redfield Jamison noted in her books it some how opened areas most others never know. The key, if you will, is to be able to find a balance, to be able to know your limits. So many of us don’t. I know I haven’t in the past to my own pain… It took much work to get to a place where I was able to be able to balance life and my manic depression. Luckily, I have a wonderful support system, a great husband. Don’t run from anything I suggest. Embrace all of life, whatever it is. I wish you the best. Much happiness & joy.

  25. Pingback: And so it begins… | mrjohnblog1

  26. I hate this stupid post… hate it hate it hate it…. wait… staring to like it… i think I love it…. This post is the best! The greatest! My favorite!

  27. Pingback: And so it begins… | mrjohnblog1

  28. Pingback: On bipolar… | David W. Pierce

  29. Thank you for your honesty. I agree with your conclusion. You probably helped someone with this article.

  30. Danielle S

    Love, love, love. you are right – you are not bipolar – you have it. You are you and it looks like you are embracing that and coping with your bipolar in a healthy way. Thank you for sharing!

  31. Amazing! Thank you. I too have bipolar disorder. I want to do a piece on it as well and was wondering if I may refer to ur blog when I do.

  32. Thanks for sharing! It’s definitely a shame that mental illness has such a bad stigma, but stuff like this really puts things into perspective! 🙂

  33. Awesome post!! I have bipolar as well and understand so much of what you’ve said here. Thank you!

  34. Pingback: On bipolar… Insight on this condition | The Pillings invite you...

  35. Kathy K

    Very Interesting

  36. This post is amazing, and for you to be able to share your feelings, and stance on being Bipolar, it’s great. Its great to see some one have the courage to say something not that it rules their life, but that they rule their own life, just with an extra piece to work on. This is great:)

  37. Carly Sy Monk

    Thank you for posting this. Although my thirteen year old daughter has been recently diagnosed, I have anticipated that diagnosis since she was only six. I grew up witnessing my younger sister struggle with Bipolar and much to my dismay, she chose to use the labeling as an excuse to embrace her rash behaviors and hide from personal enrichment. My daughter even idealizes how “in the moment” she lives her life and this terrifies me. I do not want this term to define her or cripple her future, so I am doing what I can to talk through her behavioral setbacks as merely lessons about behavior and choices and to remind her that these things are fluid and changeable, with consistent work. Fighting depression daily, I know doing the work is not always easy, but we all have the choice to fight against the grains of life and overcome life by learning to love ourselves. Thank you fir writing ths so that I can share your insight with her.

    • One of the things that I try to reinforce with my kids, using myself as an example, is that consequences should and do exist for one’s actions, no matter how you may be “feeling” at the time. I see many people in society hamstring this thought by using illness as an excuse, or nodding at illness as a reason to not hold someone accountable for their actions. Outside of a cultural, societal change, I don’t know how to fix this, and I don’t know how to properly assign consequences except on a case by case basis.

      One thing that I heard early on that I have held onto is this: (and she may understand it as well, even at 6)

      The only thing you can control about a person is their actions, and the only person you can control is you. Everyone feels things, everyone makes bad choices scometimes. That is not an excuse for you to make bad choices. It is a reason for you to make good choices to help others by seeing your example, that good choices lead to good things.

      🙂

  38. Thank you so much for speaking out about not letting bipolar define you. There is so much stigma out there, and what so many people don’t realize is that so many suffer from some form of mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was 18, and then severe anxiety. It takes a lot to let people know, and it is so hard to not let it define you. Thank you for your bravery, more people need to see and understand that this does not make us who we are, it is just something we have to deal with (it’s not pleasant – not at all, but it does not make us different). I very much enjoyed reading your post, and I look forward to reading more from you.

  39. Words are so very powerful to strengthen, heal, or crush. I applaud your resolute efforts to do all any of us can do – accept what we can and cannot control in our lives, and find peace within that world. Be strong, as you obviously are, and take good care. Cheers to you and yours (they’re lucky to have you). Thanks for your post. It made my night.

  40. “…. so make the choice that will make you happy and that will allow you to live as well as possible.” True!!

  41. Fabulous article! I’d love to share this with some of my clients who I often try to show my own scars as a reminder to them that they are no different than those who are treating them. They are not mental illness. We may be therapists but it does not mean we’re the exception to life’s twists and turns. Thank you for being so courageous with your words and revealing so much of yourself. I would love to have you frequent my page and help provide insight to some of my own personal journey. I am working pretty hard on myself right now and you seem to have an amazing perspective in life!

  42. kmkinsleybooks

    Absolutely love this; so well said. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing! I suffer from severe depressive disorder and anxiety, to the point that doctors have gone as far as to call my symptoms “borderline bipolar”. It isn’t easy for people to relate to me on an everyday basis if they know this about me. It doesn’t really bother me, all things considered. But the stigma, oh, the stigma! I often get questioned as to why my stories are about people with “mental illnesses”. The simplest answer I can give: I have no greater admiration than for those who “suffer from mental illness” but refuse to actually suffer. x K

    http://kmkinsleybooks.wordpress.com

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! It’s always a help to know that what we experience is not experienced alone. I followed your blog and definitely look forward to reading the things you write more often!

    • So well said! I have been on medication for depression and anxiety for about 18 years now and whenever the subject of depression comes up or suicide, I’m amazed at how people say “suicide is such a selfish act” or “people who are depressed need to get out and do something for someone else”. Sometimes, I barely have the energy to do anything for myself much less anyone else! When I have more time, I’m going to definitely check out your blog!

      • My response to them is this, generally: Remind me, the next time you are feeling sad about something, to tell you to buck up and get over it because there is no use crying over spilt milk. Let me know what you think of what I say in that moment. It will be meant in the best possible way, and I will only be trying to help.

        Strangely, those people have little else to say in response, and seldom want further discussion. (or they shut down and declare themselves right, at which point I simply agree and go find somewhere else to be)

        😉

      • That’s a great response actually! It’s straight and to the point. Sometimes people just have no idea how insensitive they can be.

  43. kli17

    Thank you for being so brave. Most of us who are trying to cope with these intermal struggles are too ashamed to speak out about it. Perhaps we fear what others will think of us, how they may or may not judge us. None of us want to be looked at differently just because our thoughts and feelings function differently. Living with severe depression and anxiety has often made me feel so overwhelmed with life. I’m overly sensitive to things that most people are not, causing me to feel hurt very often. There are so many times I just want to give up. Often I feel so alone; however, in reading your post, it has made me realize that I don’t necessarily need to go through the ups and downs by myself. Although I do not have any close friends or family who understand what I am struggling with, it helps to know there are others out there who are willing to share their stories and methods for accepting what they’re going through in a positive manner. Having discussions with other bloggers who are experiencing similar emotions may benefit me in many ways. I started a blog as an outlet; it’s my “happy place” that allows me to focus on something other than the negative things going on in my life, which I tend to do too often. Focusing on the positive is much easier said that done. I plan to try out a few of your other methods for coping. I tend to not think before I speak or act, when I am in my depressed state of mind; then afterwards I feel so saddened by my actions or my words. I hate this about myself. I’ve pushed so many people away by saying things I do not mean. So as you said, I need to work on myself, and I need to slow down and think things through, and be aware of when I’m getting to this point so that I can take a step back and tell those around me that I’m overwhelmed and I need to be left alone for a while. I’m in my late 20s now, and have lived with this since I was a child. I truly appreciate how much you’ve opened my eyes. Thank you.

    • This really touches me, and thank you for commenting. Nothing is harder, in my opinion, than going through the internal struggle of any illness and imagining yourself completely alone and misunderstood. Read through the comments, there are plenty of us out there, here in the blogoverse as well as the rest of the world. There are also lots of people who just want to help us, and it can be hard to accept their help for what it is.

      Just know that someone is out there that cares and goes through some of the same things. If there’s ever anything I can do, get in touch. misterhamtastic@gmail.com or look me up on FB. 🙂

  44. Well said, love your opening line!

  45. Fantastic post, im possibly Bipolar ? and have just started my journey to try and address my mental health, the mania is most frightening thing for me and potentially the most dangerous, I have just posted my first blog about it as its not somthing I have shared with many people but I do feel I need a outlet. You words are inspiring and informative and u totally relate xx well done x

    • Thank you! I think an outlet really helps people, blogging perhaps more so than a journal. Having other people simply say,”I know what you’re going through” can make the all the difference in the world. I’ll be following you. 🙂

  46. samlogeswaran

    Reblogged this on Just A Thought and commented:
    Interesting Perspective

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