Those of us who live with bipolar disorder know it’s not a picnic. But compared to when I was first diagnosed things have really come a long way in terms of information. If I had access to the internet in 1999 I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt my life’s course would have been altered. There’s so much information and stories of people living well with the illness. And also stories of people who are struggling. Most of the time it falls somewhere in between. But the point is there are people out there talking about living with bipolar disorder.
I’m one of those people.
I’ve been working on a new talk for upcoming keynote speeches. I usually have a few analogies or things that have really stuck in my mind. I have often heard diabetes as a reference folks with good intentions say. For example, “Hey you have bipolar disorder. It’s no different than diabetes. Just take the pills.” I really always and I do mean always hated that comparison. First of all, there’s a blood test that measure glucose levels. Second, a person with diabetes never has their sanity checked. Mental fitness is not a question that arises. Third, health care professionals hold classes to educate people about diabetes. They actually teach people how to manage their chronic physical illness. Fourth, there’s stigma with both but we all know mental illness wins the more stigmatized illness.
If I knew everything I have since learned about bipolar disorder 20 years ago, well, life would be different.
Here’s what I wish I knew:
- Most people who have bipolar disorder need medications for life
- Without medications relapsing episodes come more frequent and can become worse
- The sooner you learn to accept it the easier life is gonna be
- It takes a frustrating battle of trial and error to find the right combinations of medications. If a doctor writes you one prescription with several refills before your moods are stable -consider finding a new doctor
- It’s gonna be hard work learning to manage it.
- You’re going to hate taking medications at first but you have to stick to it
- If you don’t get bipolar disorder under control it will destroy your life. Of course I don’t have a crystal ball but I’ve seen my share of lives destroyed. I’ve never seen a positive outcome by someone who chose to ignore it
My mother always used to say, “If I knew then what I know now….”. Now I just say, “Now that I know I can teach others.”
But darn. It sure would have been nice too have this knowledge. So I’m passing it along the others and hopes that it helps one person.
I’ll leave you with this one quote:
“There is no medicine like HOPE, no incentive so great, no tonic so powerful as the expectation of tomorrow.”