Bipolar is not well defined with regards to causation, despite decades of research. The current theories revolve around the complex interplay between genetic expression, environmental triggers, and biological neuro-transmission. If a holistic approach to healing the patterns of the mind (and how those emotions affect the body) is utilized, it is my opinion that you cannot deny the existence of biological elements at play. It is, however, only a piece of a complicated puzzle.
I cannot determine with any veracity if biology is more responsible than environment or experiential learning, in the causation of bipolar. That said, I will attempt to reflect on my life experiences to address this. Based on this single account (clearly not a wide scientific study), I think biology is largely responsible for bipolar becoming unmanageable.
I’ll explain why.
I have loving parents, supportive siblings, and a husband that adores me (you rock, baby). I have a roof over my head, an education in my pocket, and friends who accept my eccentricities. I have all the gifts in life a person could dream of, in my humble opinion. It isn’t perfect, but it’s all I need and then some. There is no motivation for me to sabotage the beauty of what surrounds me. None. Absolutely none. I appreciate the love and comfort I experience with immense heart-felt gratitude – daily. Surely I have faced tremendous challenges, we all have, but I would not identify as someone who has been dealt a rough hand.
Despite my attachment to my “good life” I have still felt the despair of depression soak into every cell of my body. I have also attempted feats, and taken risks, well beyond my abilities in moments of manic energy. This is counter-intuitive and self-damaging, it goes against the natural tendency to protect that which makes us happy, feel loved, and safe.
So why would someone choose suffering, added complications, and distress for those they love? You wouldn’t if you are in a rational head-space. Environmental triggers are usually absent for me. Biology however remains constant.
Despite my many gifts, and years-long therapeutic efforts, nothing has ever worked to get me out of the dark bowels of depression like serotonin affecting medication. Call them drugs, call them pharmaceuticals, you may call me an addict, or someone who drinks the psychiatry kool-aid, whatever you like is fine by me. The truth is the medications have saved me – and I am grateful. I have attempted (under doctor’s care) to withdraw their use, but relapse was the only result I have ever experienced. It is a sure as the sun rising in the morning.
I can’t be as certain about my anti-manic agent as I haven’t tested this as directly. That said, I haven’t had a bad spell of mania in years and I’m comfortable with my low dose and obvious results.
As for the ever-so-common anxiety that many of us face, well, that’s more complex. I am still fine-tuning my approach to this, but the occasional use of medication offers respite from intense moments. I am far more interested in so-called “alternative” treatments for anxiety, and I am actively learning more about various techniques that are used. I feel I am quite green in this particular area, but I am hoping to hit the learning curve in an exponential fashion. Still, there are times when pharmaceuticals give me time to breathe, reflect, and internalize possible reasons for my anxious tendencies. I can contemplate patterns if given a break from the crushing effects of nervousness.
How can I look at this empirical evidence and deny what is my personal truth? Inner strength, lifestyle choices, family support, and biological alterations have all been required for me to find my version of wellness.
Of course, I don’t think many people are comfortable with the idea of life-long medication. And I sincerely wish I didn’t have a need for it. That said, I am utterly opposed to changing something, which is not broken, just for the sake of being unaltered. I need to be altered. I know what is inevitable if I am not. A physical disease deserves the same holistic view as a mind-based disorder.
So despite my obvious improvement, found in pharmaceuticals, what other reasons do I have for adhering to my medication schedule religiously?
My family deserves the best possible version of myself that I can offer them, first and foremost. If I am honest they are the reason for every bit of self-care and medication compliance I participate in. They are why I attend all appointments, research like a lunatic about additive therapies, and communicate with others who have my diagnosis. But, ultimately, I don’t deserve to suffer either, and I have. Life is just far more manageable in this way.
I want to be clear that I support anyone who can find satisfaction, living with bipolar, without medication. I need it to be known that I cast no judgment on those who can manage without. I am just well aware that I am not one of those people, and I doubt I ever will be. But, at least for now, I am free of the burdens of bipolar – long may it last.
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Last reviewed: 25 Dec 2013