This 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.