I read a lot about bipolar disorder – a lot of books, blogs, and news articles. I live bipolar disorder. It is as intrinsic to who I am as my curly hair and the brown-green color of my eyes. It isn’t all that I am, but it is a part of me, it helps to define my moods.
I read news articles about new ways to identify bipolar disorder in the brain with scans and gene identification. And it begs the question – what if bipolar disorder didn’t exist? What if these tests led to a cure? What if, with a little rewiring, we could rid the world of bipolar disorder? Would I want to?
It’s a heavy question. I believe my parents wish there was no such thing as bipolar disorder because they have watched me struggle for the past five years. My boyfriend has told me he wishes he could take my place. I see for others how it pains them to watch me vacillate between the highs and the lows of this disorder.
Honestly in the beginning I saw this mental illness as a curse. Everything was so damn hard. It stole from me a career as a style editor. It stole my independence – no longer could I live alone, no longer could I drive. I became a child again even though I was 27 years old. I wouldn’t want to relive that time, those first couple of years as we searched for a medication cocktail to help me.
But then we did. We found a handful of pills that quelled the depression and kept me from mania on a day-to-day basis. Sure, there were hiccups and bumps and episodes, but life was better, is better.
And now that I am better than I was, now that I know I can be helped, I don’t know that I would wish it all away. Yes, it is a pain in the rear to have to go to therapy and psychiatry appointments. Yes, it is costly. Sure, I wish I didn’t need the meds, but there are some bright spots. Had I never been sick I would have never known the compassion I do today, not only for others, but also for myself. I love myself fiercely and I don’t think I could have said that before all this. Being mentally ill has allowed me to help others, to be a voice for the voiceless, to encourage others, to sit here at this laptop and type this.
I believe I am a better person now and maybe it didn’t take bipolar disorder to be this person, but maybe it did. And I don’t want to rid my life of that. I don’t want to erase bipolar disorder. I want to live with it. I want to thrive with it.