If you had the choice to not be a person with bipolar disorder any more would you take it or do you think that being bipolar has made you a stronger person?
Wow. That question had me thinking. I was weighing pros and cons, meds and no meds, and after some thought (and just short of opening up Excel and creating a spreadsheet with all my analytics) I realized that the answer was actually really quite simple.
No. No I would not choose to no longer have bipolar disorder. Ok, so everyone who read my Facebook posts yesterday is probably jumping up and down right now screaming “WHAT!!! That’s not what you were saying yesterday!!!” while throwing rotten tomatoes at the computer screen, but then again, I’m sure they are also all too familiar with the extreme highs and extreme lows (one day you may hate the mailman for delivering you someone else’s mail on accident, your neighbor for cutting the grass way to early while you tried to sleep, and your dog because the two of you can not agree on a proper hour for breakfast, and then the very next day, or even hours later, you are snuggling with your dog again, chatting it up with your neighbor, and well, the mailman is the mailman.) That’s just how it goes.
Yes, there are some unpleasant things that go along with bipolar disorder like terrible mood swings, medications that can be large in quantity and/or large in cost, different types of therapy, and possibly multiple doctors, but those are just little nuances to me in comparasion to what I have and what I have become because of having bipolar disorder. Without it, I don’t think I would have the connection to music that I do. Sure I play the flute, piccolo, and alto sax, but you don’t need to have bipolar to be able to do that. What stands out to me is when I play the music, or when I listen to music (live or on the radio or iPod) I literally feel the music and the lyrics in my heart and soul and that’s how I know its a great song. As the song Feel It In My Bones by Tiesto (feat. Tegan and Sara) says:
What rushes into my heart and my skull
I can’t control
Think about it
Feel it in my bones
What rushes into my heart and my skull
I can’t control
Not only is that how music affects me, but also how all my emotions affect me. When I feel an emotion I feel it deeply. It helps me relate to people, especially my friends and family. When they hurt, I hurt; when they are happy, I am. Sometimes it can be bad because I get too emotionally involved in issues that aren’t mine, but I would rather feel that same thing so that I can be supportive and relate. So many people just throw around the phrase “I know how you feel…” even though they have no clue. I really do and I don’t think I would be able to if I didn’t have bipolar.
If you were to tear a piece of paper out of a notebook and set it in front of me, I could usually whip up a poem as quickly as if I was jotting down a recipe from memory. I’m not talking about Dr. Seuss rhymes, but ones that talk about emotion or what I’m feeling or experiencing. The words just flow and flow. I think my ability to be creative in that way and express my emotions like that has to do with having bipolar. I definitely would not want to give that up. That is one thing I love to do and one of the ways I express my emotions.
Do I wish I would have been diagnosed sooner? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! I was not diagnosed until I was 25 (almost 26) years old. I spent my high school and college years feeling as though I was living one epic Shakespeare tragedy. I think if I had been diagnosed sooner, I could have been treated sooner and used a lot more of my creativity to my advantage. The very dark depression that hovered over me could have been minimized and I might have been able to have happier memories, not to mention a more consistent and stable group of friends,. You know, the kind that you know starting in kindergarden and then your own children end up going to school together or growing up together. Since I have been treated, I have been able to maintain friendships, but during high school and college I was quite a lonely soul inside. So I do wish I had been diagnosed sooner.
My hospitalizations and therapy after were definitely difficult for me. I had tried to always be a perfectionist with everything that I did do (which is why losing friends was really hard on me, I felt like a total failure), so I saw my hospitalization and therapy as failing. Looking back on it, it wasn’t failing at all. It definitely made me stronger. I was broken down all the way to little puzzle pieces when I showed up in the ER the first time and by the end of it all, I had emerged a full woman, pieces put back together, and off to my first year of law school. Those pieces aren’t in with super glue or cement though. I have to constantly maintain everything to keep it all put together (doctor visits, medications, lifestyle). Occasionally a piece falls out, but I now know how to put it back in there and put myself back together. It takes a strong person to be able to put themselves back together after they fall. Giving up is usually the easier option. Not for me.
But THAT is what has made me the person I am today and everything I learned from all of those mood swings, hospital visits, and the people in the hospital and in therapy, as well as my current doctor. I have these great creative gifts that allow me to express what it feels like to be me and the ability to get in touch with my feelings so closely that I can truly relate to people close to me and be as supportive to them as they have been to me through my journey. I developed confidence, self control (ok, BETTER self control), independence, and whole new outlook on life. I learned that having bipolar disorder, you need a little bit of modification on your lifestyle, but just because you have a mental illness, doesn’t mean you are incapacitated. Your life isn’t over! 🙂 Its time to look at all the things having bipolar has given you and use those as your power tools to put the pieces of yourself back together!