So lately I’ve been feeling a little stagnated in my Therapy. There haven’t been any crises or really major issues to deal with. I’ve never felt that the ‘show and tell’ in Therapy was productive and have always tried to make better use of the limited time I have. Yet that’s exactly what it’s turned into lately. The old, ‘so how has your week been?” I almost feel like I’m wasting my time.
But I’m not.
No, we aren’t delving into the depths of my psyche or trying to learn how to deal with the latest problem. Yes, in many ways I could have the same conversations with just a friend. But it really is more than that, and still an important part of my recovery. First of all, they are really not conversations I could have with a friend. No matter how close my friends are, there’s no way they could really appreciate what I’ve been through dealing with my illness. My therapist not only has the history, she has the knowledge and experience to understand the illness in ways no one else can. And there are still breakthrough moments. As we discuss the ‘events’ of the week, she will point out her observations as to where certain behaviors originate, or why I do some of the things I do. For example, the stressed induced asthma that I sometimes have in the mornings are a part of the OCD disorder. And even though I might not be dealing with earth shattering problems, I am still trying to learn more about being ‘normal’. The more I know, the more successful I am.
Last week I asked my Therapist to challenge me. I told her that I was feeling like I have been spinning my wheels, and I looked to her to give me something tangible to work on. And she gave me one. Learn how to be normal. Now, I know that I will never truly be ‘Normal’. And I’ve written a great deal about what Normal is, and how there really isn’t such a thing. Normal is really dictated by society’s expectations. 100 years ago divorce wasn’t considered normal, but an aberration that was unacceptable. Yet today, it’s almost a given. The normal I’m seeking is to fit in with the majority. Being bipolar sets me apart. I life experiences, tendencies, and behaviors are not what the average person goes through. It’s very difficult to integrate myself into the mainstream. Even when my outward behaviors are under control, with the way my brain is physically wired, I will always have a different way of thinking. In spite of that however, inside I am a good person, and apart from the illness I really am not so different from anyone else. The challenge is to have that inside match the outside.
And there’s the matter of focus.
I have a hard time not letting my illness define who I am. My whole life has been shaped by dealing with all the ramifications and consequences that come from being bipolar. All the out of control behaviors, hospitalizations, and fallout from it all are hard to forget. And the medications I’ll take the rest of my life are a constant reminder that I’m sick. And it holds me back from the normalcy I am trying to achieve. But now, I’m not struggling with the day to day effects of my disease. The medications seem to be working, and the physical aspects are under control. So I am trying to learn to live my life without being bipolar. In a support group we were encouraged to say ‘I am a person with bipolar’, not that I am bipolar. It’s something you have, not something you are. That’s not easy to accept though. It’s been too much an influence in who I am.
And there’s a risk to being normal.
One of the reasons I’m in a position to change my focus and live my life without this disease overwhelming me is because I’ve sought out and continued with treatment. When I am feeling good it would be very easy to forget why I’m being treated and the necessity of remaining so. I recently wrote about the temptation to stop my medications. I feel good, so maybe I don’t really need them after all. And therapy is just a rehash of the week before, so is it really helpful and necessary? I’m spending a lot of money for all of this, yet I’m not feeling sick. It’s a double edge sword. I want and need to not be controlled by this illness, but I need to keep focus on treatment so I can keep it that way.
So that’s my challenge.
My goal is to learn to live normally without abandoning the reason I have come this far. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I’ve had a lifetime of learning how to live and survive with this illness. Now I’m trying to unlearn those lifetime lessons. I’ve made so much progress over the last couple of years, but I’m not whole by any means. Awareness and acceptance have enabled me rise above the illness.
I asked my Therapist to challenge me as I move into my new reality. And she has. My challenge is to live a life that is not dominated by my history and illness. And I have no doubt that I will succeed.