1. Acceptance is the key. My therapist says she has clients who come in and wank about their bipolar disorder and refuse to take their medication. I’m different. Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of problems and bad days and debilitating days, but I have accepted this life sentence of being beautifully bipolar. I take my meds. I go to therapy. I see a psychiatrist. I am my own advocate. I know there will be ups and downs. I know I will probably be hospitalized again. I complain to my therapist, but I’ve accepted bipolar disorder as just another part of me – like my curly hair or brown and green eyes.
2. There will be good days and there will be bad days. There will be good weeks and there will be bad weeks. There will be good months and there will be bad months. This illness is tricky, you never know what to expect or when so take advantage of the good days, weeks, and months. You’ll need to remember them during those dark days, weeks, and months.
3. Having a support system makes life a hell of a lot easier. Not too long ago my support system temporarily shrank. That was hard. I need to know I have people I can call when I am in a crisis. Your support system can be anyone – an actual support group (GREAT IDEA), family, friends, partners. These people will learn to know your tells – when you are getting a little bit manic, when you are headed for depression – often before you do. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
4. Statistics suck. Ignore them. They are out there – the number of those of us touched by this illness, the suicide rate, the co-morbid disorders. It is really depressing. Don’t focus on the suicide rate, focus on your coffee date with a good friend. Don’t worry about your odds of developing a substance abuse problem, go buy a new dress. Don’t dwell on the stats. They are just numbers.
5. If you have bipolar disorder, it is not your fault. I once had a psychiatrist tell me, “Elaina, you don’t have to apologize for being sick.” Do you know how much that simple sentence meant to me. There I was, feeling sorry for myself and everyone who had to “deal” with me when I didn’t have to. No one willingly says, “Hey, I think I’ll be bipolar. That sounds fun.” It just happens to some of us.
I think National Bipolar Awareness Day is important. I wish I had known a little bit about the illness before I was diagnosed. Maybe together we can share our stories so others will understand us a little bit better.
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net