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.
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.