Bipolar Disorder is a Thief!

Bipolar Disorder Steals

In case you haven’t heard bipolar disorder is a thief. You know my life was going along just fine until I was hit with a severe bipolar episode. For all practical purposes I had it all—great career, wonderful relationship, plenty of money, a home with a pool, spa and basketball court, and plenty of friends. It didn’t take long from my first episode for my entire life to implode. At the end of the day it’s not the material things I missed most it’s the intangibles.

Actually it took about four years after my intital diagnosis before my life started to be completely disrupted. As you can imagine I spent a great deal of time blaming myself for allowing bipolar disorder to wreck havoc with my daily course of living. But really what’s a girl to do? Did I see the warning signs that if I didn’t get the proper treatment the illness was going to get worse? Nope. I can honestly say that no doctor ever said that to me until I was already living proof that it can get worse. At that time it was a no brainer.

Limited Resources & Stigma

See that’s the thing about mental illness. Because of the stigma and the limited amount of resources for treatment no one really sits you down and tells you the way things are gonna be. Often time they just write out a pile of prescriptions (that frequently make you gain a ton of weight) and they send you out the door. I don’t remember anyone ever taking the time to explain to me that according to the National Institute of Mental Health more than 80% of all bipolar patients experience psychosis. Who knew?

I had to take it upon myself to research bipolar illness long after I had experienced the gut wrenching losses because of the disorder. Often times I have found myself giving a therapist a specific statistic and/or fact about bipolar disease. I have been shocked that they didn’t know it. Then again, without playing too much of the victim role should I really have expected anything better?

Years of Treatment

It took me 13 years before I actually found a physician who could give me more insights about the illness than I already knew.   I don’t understand how people can go to school for more than 10 years and not be able to relate to a bipolar patient. It’s just beyond my comprehension that not only do we have limited resources for mental health treatment we don’t always have the best treatment either. But who is going to listen to that argument?

Being a Voice for Mental Illness

If I’m going to be completely honest I have to say I’m a little bitter. Even though I know hanging on to negative emotions about how things have worked out is not going to get me very far. I still have to admit I’d rather things worked out differently. So they didn’t’ and now I have to continue moving forward with my life. I have learned that if there is something you cannot change you can focus the passion and energy on the things you can change. This is why I am speaking out about mental illness. Because no one should have to suffer as much as this population of people do. I plan to use my energy on helping the cause. At least that’s a positive way to focus my valuable time.

 

Fighting the Bipolar Battle

Ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I have lived with different degrees of the illness.  Sometimes it has been a debilitating disease rendering me incapable of doing anything on a functional scale and leaving me to pick up the pieces and put my life back together.  At times I have had successful treatment and was able to live a relatively “normal” life.  Then there were times when I lived in denial not wanting to accept I had a mental illness.  Most recently I struggle between feeling good and fighting the depressive episodes which leave me unable to function and steal my days away.

In my experience the most difficult things to deal with are threefold:

1) Continually fighting off depressive episodes

2) Coming to terms with life after a major episode

3) Dealing with medication side effects

It seems there is always something I have to fight for—whether that is sleeping off the medication side effects or fighting to not believe the lies depression tells me—I am always in a battle with this illness.

Years ago had I known everything I know today about bipolar disorder I believe my outcome would have been far better off but this only adds to my present day frustration.  I would not have taken the risks of going without treatment because for me no treatment meant the illness would get worse.  I would have sought support from friends and family members instead of isolating myself and pushing people away.  I guess this is why they say, “hindsight is 20/20.”

At the same time, years ago I would never have blogged about mental illness much less be willing to talk about it.    I had so much self-stigma those close relatives like–shame and blame—and I had zero compassion for myself.  At least today I have learned to treat myself better.  Everyday I express myself I gain a little better understanding and give myself the gift of compassion.

I think a lot can be said for eliminating negative attitudes toward people who have mental illness.  There is so much we have to go through on a daily basis—the last thing we need is to have to deal with stigma on top of everything else.  But from my personal experience the worst kind of stigma is self-stigma.

One step I am taking is to remind myself everyday I have got to be kind to the woman in the mirror.  I have had to learn how to be nice to me because how can I expect others to treat me differently if I don’t treat myself well?  As the old adage says, “treat people the way you’d like to be treated,” and for me that means being nice to myself and forgiving myself for having a serious mental illness called bipolar disorder.

Living with a mental illness means so many things to so many people.  I believe it is in part about battling the symptoms of bipolar disorder and winning the fight I can win against self-stigma one thought at a time.  I know the illness is not going to go away, but I can guarantee self-stigma can be cured.