Being bipolar can be maddening. The ever so daunting thoughts. The indecision. The opposing poles. Constant doubt. Add the fear of judgment (anxiety) and obsessive patterns (OCD) to the mix and you’ve got a cocktail for an adventure. More or less, you get me in all my glory.
For the majority of my life, I thought everyone’s brain operated like mine. The battle, ya know? Actually, most of you won’t know because you aren’t directly affected by mental illness or addiction. Yes, I have co-occurring disorders. Any time I am hospitalized, I am in a specific section separate from the majority of patients. My thought processes are quite different from others. My alcoholism convinces my mind that it is ok to injest toxins at a lethal level. It goes further than convincing as I crave. With three years sobriety, these cravings have subsided but that doesn’t mean the occasional urge doesn’t slip its way through.
My mind plays tricks on me. At times I am certain I am not bipolar and that I do not need medication. Other times I know that I am and I accept it. The friction that is caused by the addictive part of my brain and the chemical off balance of bipolar, creates havoc somedays. There are bad days and then worse days. The worst days usually follow many bad days in a row. The worst days leave me bedridden. The time since my last episode of worst days is significant in my recovery. I haven’t been hospitalized since 2013, a whopping five years. For two of those years, I was still in active addiction causing days of darkness. Those days haven’t happened since I surrendered. I have had rough and depressed days but no bedridden ones. (Knock on wood)
I can only imagine what it is like to have a fully functional brain or one that doesn’t play tricks on me. The reality is that I never will and am forever in debt to an imbalance that does as it pleases. I keep waiting for the day that I crash, again. It is inevitable. I am hopeful that the medication will continue working, keeping me stable and functional. It has only been a year since I agreed to take medication for bipolar disorder and a year and a half since my diagnosis.
The ironic part is that when I am sick, I do not realize it. When you have lived more of your life unmedicated than medicated, you learn ways of coping. Not all are the healthiest but coping nonetheless. The weight gain, days in bed and crazy mood swings try desperately to signal me of something wrong. I don’t listen. I eat. I sleep. I cry. I laugh. I get mad. I sleep.
Living with many mental illnesses can be disabling. It is an invisible attack that no one sees coming. Nor do they feel its damage. It is unexplainable and frustrating. It is difficult. While my diagnoses do not define me, they do affect me. Altering my thought process to extremes at times, resulting in bizarre behavior. Uncontrollable behavior.
At almost 40 years old I choose to remain positive and aware when dealing with my mental illnesses. I approach each day with a new outlook. Although I am not curable, I am hopeful. If you or someone you love are struggling to accept depression, bipolarity, or any other mental illness, keep in mind that there will be better days. The two best solutions I have to offer are educate yourself and seek professional assistance. Discussing your symptoms makes it easier to cope. You are not alone.