I was trying to write about no matter how consuming being bipolar can be there are always some areas in my life that aren’t affected by this disease. I thought about some simple things that I could enjoy and things to look forward to. It seemed like an easy thing to do, but the more I got into it, the more I realized that there really isn’t a single aspect that this illness doesn’t touch.
I always start my day with coffee and can really enjoy my first cup after getting up, especially when it’s warm enough to sit out on the porch and watch the sun rise. So there’s something that isn’t impacted by being bipolar, right? It’s just a simple cup of coffee. But even that simple pleasure can be overshadowed by the disease. If my mood is depressed I’m still going to be thinking negative thoughts, and if I’m manic my mind is moving on a higher plane and I’m too fast to really stop and enjoy. There are times when I’m between the extreme moods, and I it is something I enjoy. But it’s still impacted by my illness.
Reading is another think I like to do. I have certain books that I read over an over; just a good story that I can get into no matter how well I know the plot. Mealtimes in particular are when I like to read the most. There’s almost always a book on the kitchen table that I have ready when I sit down to eat. But the disease can take this away. I have no energy and a lack of focus for reading when I’m depressed. The speed of my thoughts when I’m manic is way too fast and distracted to be able to sit still for anything.
Watching TV would be something that shouldn’t have anything to do with being bipolar. It’s easy to get caught up in a drama, comedy or just something interesting. But again, that’s impacted by this illness. If I’m feeling bad I don’t want to do anything, even watch TV. I’m more likely to sit in the dark or try to sleep. And of course the other end of the spectrum isn’t going to sit still long enough to make it through a show; too many things to do, too much energy to stop moving.
I really love music. I play guitar and piano and can play for hours enjoying the act of creating my own music. I also love listening to music and almost always have something playing. But even that’s not immune. There are songs that bring back really bad memories and can be unbearable at times. And when I’m really down, my soul is completely devoid of music and I don’t want to listen to anything at all.
Dancing is also something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s a natural extension of my love for music. And my competitive nature makes me want to think I’m a good dancer and better than most and I like showing off. But you have to be able to hear the music, and you must have the energy to want to move. I enjoy ballroom and swing dancing the most, and when I feel alone and isolated I can’t find anyone to dance with. Other times I just can’t feel it at all.
Looking forward to a trip? That’s fine when there’s a trip to be made. But who has the desire to go anywhere when it’s too much to leave the house to go to the store for groceries much less an extended trip. Wanting to go on a trip and not being able to can be very depressing as well. I do tend to go places in a manic episode, but I’ll spend money I don’t have and frequently create a financial hardship by just going unplanned. I’ll just pick up and go with no thought of any consequences.
Don’t even think about work. I’ve ended up losing or walking away from every job I’ve ever had as a result of being bipolar. I either get too depressed to care about working at all, or want to take over the company with grandiose thinking and boundless energy. Nobody can run things as well as I can, and if they don’t recognize it I’ll find someplace else to go that will appreciate my brilliance.
When I’m in a more stable mood and in between the depression and the mania you’d think that I could get away from the bipolar influence. But there’s a reminder every single day when I take the medications that I know I have to keep taking. I worry about how long the stability is going to last, and how bad is the next episode going to be. While I have the focus and strength I try to learn more about my illness; reading self-help books and studying clinical resources.
I wanted to prove that I had a life outside being bipolar. I frequently hear people say that “I am not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder. It does not define who I am.” But for me, that just isn’t true. There’s not a single day that isn’t touched in some way by this illness. It does define who I am; from my day to day moods to my abilities to do things to the way I think regardless of my moods. There’s no part of my life that isn’t affected. But in spite of the impact this has, I will continue to fight and be as positive as I can possibly be. No matter how bad I feel today, tomorrow could always be better. The harder I work and try to find the right treatment plan can someday make this illness manageable. But it will always be a part of my life no matter how well controlled the symptoms are. I’ll still need medications. I’ll still have to monitor for signs of change that could indicate a change in mood. I will have to be aware of and avoid triggers that can undermine even the best treatment. I may be “as person with bipolar disorder”, but I’m also a bipolar person.
It’s who I am.