Are You Your Disorder?


the-screamThis question bothers me mainly because I often do feel like my bipolar disorder is a major part of me. Am I my disorder? No, but my disorder is a part of me. Being bipolar to me is as natural as having blue eyes. Am I my blue eyes? No.

 So, if you ask the most important question I keep hearing lately….Does bipolar disorder define me?

 Here I have to stop and think. I keep on thinking, What do you really mean by that?

I’m assuming that you are asking me if I let my disorder dictate how I live my life. The answer to that question is very easy….Yes.

For ten years, I have been altering my lifestyle because of the disorder and the assumed limitations I have because of it. I have allowed other people time and time again to define what I can do, instead of internally studying my own desires and defining for myself what I am capable of doing. I look back on my life now and see to my horror the mindless, overworked zombie the teaching profession turned me into. Then when I left, I very slowly realized I was missing something huge and fundamental to my life, my writing. I knew I needed to center on changing my life, but I kept putting me off because of the responsibilities to my husband and family.

 I attempted to work on me by researching and writing about bipolar disorder thinking the disorder was my main problem, but the writing was geared more towards helping others. Again, I was focused on everyone else instead of me.

 To top it off, eight months ago I, with the help of my psychiatrist, went off Lithium and Abilify gradually and replaced them with Lamictol, so my husband and I could try to have a baby. However, the pressures of family problems, the drastic shift in the economy, and my sense of failure to get pregnant were not making the transition easier. I worried too much in everything else, and I still was not paying enough attention to me.

In August, I ignored the warning signs that were obvious because I loved the new found creativity I hadn’t had since high school. I started a novel based on my life that slammed me into traumatic experiences I knew were painful, but I never thought would lead to a possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So the pain whipped me from depression to mania without my medicine of choice as my usual buffer. I started therapy, but it was already too late. I was manic, asked for help and was put back on Abilify, but that same night I knew it was now too late for outpatient treatment.

When my husband woke up for work, I asked him to take me to the hospital. I was showing signs that I was becoming delusional. It was only a matter of time for me to lose complete control. My third hospitalization allowed me to face some of my fears and I amazed everyone with how well I recovered from a manic induced psychotic break, but I spent time finally defining and loving me. I dropped all the outside stress and finally focused on me and separating me from my bipolar disorder. The hospital stay also allowed me to meet others who are bipolar who are not in my nuclear family. Seeing others like me allowed me to realize that there really are a lot of people just outside my front door that need help, but the support is just not there. I joined the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and am looking into finding ways to help, but I am being selfish because I need these support programs too. 😛

My whole life “bipolar” has defined me. Now I have to work on separating it from me, so I can define me and define bipolar as a trait, not my life.  By meeting others with bipolar disorder, I hope to get the help, support, and strength I need to accomplish this.

So on that note, if you read my blogs let me know when and how “I’m my disorder” so it will help me learn the difference.

Thank you William for the suggestion of this topic and for forcing me to confront my bipolar demons.

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5 thoughts on “Are You Your Disorder?

  1. Serial Insomniac October 14, 2009 / 2:11 PM

    This is one I’ve debated too. I’ve had mental health difficulties, ostensibly, for half my life – more realistically, all my life, with hindsight.

    I don’t feel defined exclusively by bipolar disorder, but by a mish-mash of diagnoses. There’s more to me than being mental, obviously, but it is a major characteristic. I ask myself every day (and have done on the blog too) if I would flick a switch and turn it off if I could. I’m not saying I don’t want to manage it all – of course I do – but frankly, I would have no idea who I am without mental illness. I struggled enough with my identity as it is! (My other diagnosis is BPD).

    Wishing you well.

  2. watercoolerstories October 14, 2009 / 4:19 PM

    “Now I have to work on separating it from me, so I can define me and define bipolar as a trait, not my life.”

    I’m right there with you.

    As far as “how I’m my disorder” I’m still not sure. It’s something I’ll ponder now, for sure.

  3. William October 15, 2009 / 7:31 AM

    Just to let ya know. When you asked what was a good topic to look at – well I just grabbed the first one off my list for my book I am working on. So, again – I got lot’s of topics.

    It’s nice to see you look at your disorder from a detached sense of being. I like what ya wrote and hope you explore it more. You might be surprised by what you find.

    Take care and keep writing.

  4. Deb/BipolarChick October 17, 2009 / 4:17 PM

    Hi! What a great topic. I’ve been throwing it around as well. Especially since I refer to myself as Bipolar Chick, kinda hard to disassociate when I use it as an alter ego.

    We have lots in common. I too was turned into an overworked zombie but by the Finance Industry. After a severe depression set in this past April I was set back on the path towards my writing. I too had ignored it (and me) for far too long. I am working to address that. Hoping to have my book ready for the Editor by Jan. 10.

    I have also joined NAMI in hopes of meeting others like me but also to help those who are struggling with recovery.

    I would like to add you to my Blog Roll…you are a wonderful advocate and a new friend (*smile*).

    Keep writing…..for yourself but for the rest of us too.

    • William October 17, 2009 / 5:06 PM

      Actually having alter ego for you disorder is good. Any ego is not you, just like your not your disorder. Now if you learn to separate it from you – you can study it and see it for what it truly is. Remember:

      Bipolar Affirmations

      Your disorder is not a reflection of you,
      your personality,
      your character,
      your thoughts,
      your essence,
      your being,
      your life,
      or
      anything else
      that your disorder,
      other people
      and you can try to
      make your disorder appear to be.

      You are not your disorder!

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