I write a lot about my feelings and opinions. I mean, that’s kind of the purpose of keeping a blog; it’s a record of what’s going on in my life. And those opinions and feelings are going to change as time goes on and I progress through my therapies, and even how I react to things on any given day. But I also think that I can be contradictory and confusing sometimes, even in the same article. There are reasons for that I think, not all of them good ones.
But maybe it’s time to clarify a few things.
In spite of apparent flip-flopping opinions, I do have some strong beliefs. I’m sure it doesn’t always come across that way, but there is always an underlying truth that comes from my core essence. In fact, that has been a focus of my therapy for a while; connecting my inner self to my outer behaviors. My goal is that what shows matches what’s real to me. I’m not there yet, but I am making progress.
So these are some of my driving factors.
Bipolar disorder is truly a physical illness. This is a scientific fact. However it is physical only in the root cause. It may stem from a chemical imbalance and brain function, but the end results are emotional. That’s why in my opinion, it’s in the DSM to begin with, and listed as a disorder. The point I try to make is, even though it’s a mental illness, it’s initially caused by physical characteristics and not a choice or weakness. I do tend to compare it with other physical illnesses, and there is some truth to that. When a diabetic has very low blood sugar it can make them very grumpy and irritable. But it’s grumpy and irritable, not abusive or grandiose. There are definite similarities, but the impact and severity of symptoms is drastically different. It is a disease, no doubt. But while it does have physical beginnings like so many other diseases, it’s not the same.
There’s no blame or shame to being bipolar. No one ever chooses to be bipolar. Whether it’s believed to be physical in nature or not, it’s not intentional. And as such, it’s nothing to be ashamed. I’m not saying it’s something to be proud of, or proclaimed from the rooftops, but there’s no sense in beating yourself down or feeling guilty because you have this illness. The only shame is the blame given by others.
That being said, there is also a responsibility that goes along with being bipolar. We may not always be able to control our actions, but we are always responsible for the results. If you charge $10,000 during a manic spending spree, you have to pay it back. Not keeping up with financial obligations because you’re too depressed to function doesn’t absolve you from eventually fulfilling those obligations. There are consequences to everything, and should not be ignored.
Pain that is caused is real, and lasting. Feelings that are hurt cannot be unhurt. I think that’s why so many relationships fail. Even when a bipolar spouse acknowledges the illness and seeks out treatment, the effects of prior behaviors cannot be undone. One of my favorite analogies is if you break a plate during a fit of anger, when you calm down and realize what you’ve done, you can be very sorry and repentant. You can even glue all the pieces back together and make the plate useable again. But the plate was in pieces, and even if repaired, will always have the cracks. The same is true with feelings. You can understand, you can accept, you can forgive; even if you can forget, there will always be scars. I think that’s why so many times (especially in my personal experience) that a relationship ends just as recovery begins. The spouse my feel responsible (Or driven by guilt) for caring from someone who is sick, but once that person is able to take care of themselves, that releases the commitment. I have felt that it was very unfair that I was left just as I was getting better, but the reality is that the plate had been broken, and acceptance and treatment wasn’t going to fix it.
I think education is extremely important. Education in general of course, but specifically in this realm it’s important to know as much as possible about mental illnesses. No, even with extensive study and great knowledge, it isn’t possible to really empathize. Even one bipolar person cannot truly understand another; each illness is unique and personal. That being said, the more knowledge one has, the more tolerant and accepting they will be. Stigma will never go away, there are always going to be those who either through lack of knowledge or lack of caring that are going to be prejudiced. But the stigmas can be reduced with teaching and information.
It’s not exactly germane, but spirituality is a definite strength. But to me, the choices about one’s beliefs are deeply personal and private. I don’t want anyone telling me what I need to believe, or how much better theirs is. If you want to share your feelings about God, show me, don’t tell me. God by definition is beyond comprehension. Who am I to say I have the ultimate understanding and the correct way to express it. Just like everyone else, the feelings, emotions and perspectives are completely unique.
If there is one thing that specifically creates confusion and inconsistencies in my writings, it’s my feelings that everyone has a right to their own feelings and beliefs. There is no way anyone can truly understand what someone else experiences. We all have our own emotional base. Our lives are shaped by the personal events that are unique. A child of an alcoholic parent is going to see things completely different from one who grew up in a more traditional home. Suffering a horrific car accident can change perspectives on life and surviving. Living through a major medical event can impact thoughts of mortality. Every single life is different; no one can possibly understand the events that have brought you to this moment in time. This does have an impact on how I come across I’m sure. My thoughts tend to be tempered by acknowledgment that no one can exactly see things the same way I do.
If there are any entitlements, this is one of them.
Another major influence in the changeability of my blog is the way I create it. I write in the moment. It’s really a stream of consciousness. I might have an idea I want to explore, or an event that is important, even just the kind of day I’m having. Except for a brief review for spelling and punctuation, I publish as soon as I reach some kind of conclusion. So I might start writing with one frame of mind, then as I reason through as I write I might end in a completely different place. The more therapy I have, and the more understanding I have of myself, the more my views and feelings can progress. Immediately after my last separation I was writing from a place of pain and abandonment. Not that the years have passed, I have a better idea of what really happened, accept the reality for what it is and move on. I felt very judgmental in the beginning, but now I kind of get it. And I certainly can sympathize the others who go through similar situations.
My mood is of course a major driver. Reading back through the last two years of writings, I think it’s easy to see the depressions, the manias, and the periods in between. If that doesn’t shape opinion and perspective, I don’t know what could. That’s what being bipolar is all about, isn’t it? You live your life from one extreme to another. The more control I have over the swings that are this illness, the more consistent my feelings will be.
I do try very hard to be patient and tolerant of everyone’s opinions, and accept differences with respect. No, I don’t always succeed, and I never completely will. Hopefully ou will see however that I really strive to see all sides of an issue, and give credit to each. But make no mistake, acceptance is not weakness. I believe what I believe, and I try to shape my life as such.
Let me believe mine, and I’ll let you have yours.