Living with bipolar disorder is a difficult thing. I often start articles this way because I know the general public believes people like me have more control than we actually do. There is this notion that persists that if we just do what the doctors tell us to we’ll be just fine.
But then something goes “wrong.” A person living with bipolar experiences depression, mania, rage, or some other undesirable outcome and those around us are quick to blame the person instead of the illness.
As an example, depression is a symptom of a bipolar. Not being able to maintain employment is a common result of depression. Sadly, more often than not, people with bipolar disorder are considered to be “not trying” or “not following their doctor’s instructions” when the very reasonable consequence of employment difficulties occurs.
As a result, we are left sick, suffering, and now accused of wrongdoing all because of a cruel illness we never asked for. People are blaming us for something that is difficult to control and we feel isolated and misunderstood. People keep judging what they don’t understand as our lives continue to deteriorate. All the while, the people around us are telling us to work harder and get our lives together.
And the solution to many of our problems is as counterintuitive as bipolar disorder is unpredictable: accept that they are correct.
Bipolar Disorder is Our Responsibility
Assuming you are still reading, I’ll clarify a bit. The fact remains that bipolar disorder, like any illness, isn’t the fault of the one diagnosed. However, every illness is the responsibility of the person who has it. So, while the people in the above example reached the right conclusion for the wrong reasons, the idea that we need to work harder is, I’m sad to say, perfectly accurate.
When I was at my sickest points, I spent so much energy hating my life. I hated the people around me, too. They were insensitive, but they also kept insisting I could be better and I vehemently disagreed with them. Then, one day, it dawned on me that if I stripped away all the emotions and insensitivity, what they were saying is that they believed in me.
And, besides all that, what other choice do we have? Not fighting back against bipolar and choosing, by way of indecision, to stay sick seems foolish. More than foolish, it’s a waste of our lives. It’s a waste of what we can become after we learn to manage bipolar disorder through some combination of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and experience.
It took me a long time to reach recovery and most people I’ve talked to have had similar experiences. The first step for all of us was to acknowledge we were sick, take responsibility for everything that has happened to us, and then start to build a better life.
Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is an award winning blogger and the creator of the official bipolar T-shirt. (Get yours now!) Interested in working with Gabe or learning more? He can be reached on Facebook, via e-mail, or on his website, www.GabeHoward.com.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community