Bipolar is a limiting illness, and I grieve over the adjustments I have to make. But I can live with the grief. Life is better when I’m stable.
I never really get used to having bipolar disorder. It’s a true chicken and the egg scenario. I get better and then try to do more things and then the bipolar raises it’s egg head and I am pushed back into the reality that I can’t do what I want and manage bipolar at the same time.
If I had diabetes, I could not live on chocolate cake. The problem is that all I would want is chocolate cake if I had diabetes. Telling someone they can’t have something or can’t do something doesn’t make life easier for the person. It makes is harder in my opinion! If someone says, “Julie, you should do this and this and that and that,” my first thought is, “Don’t tell me what to do!”
This was not only immaturity. I am not 19 any more. This was pure and simple defiance and it was leading me down a pretty dark and dangerous path. I knew I had to change. I knew that I would be sad and would grieve what I was losing- the wildness and the crazy times that I used to think were so fun. I had to grow up internally and say enough.
Here is how I did this and continue to do this despite still having regular mood swings:
I see my bipolar management as a choice I make for myself in order to have a better life. I used to push the limits. I will stay out until 2 AM. That’s better than staying out all night like my friends! Or, I will only drink a little, it won’t make a big difference to my mood.
I stopped this kind of reasoning with myself. I decided to be honest with my own behavior.
In terms of my biggest triggers, dating and travel, I tried everything possible to get around the reality that dating and traveling without extensive planning make me sick. I tested it all for many years. Nothing worked. I always got sick.
One day I just decided I wanted a different life. I decided – no one forced me. No one said I had to do something. No one was telling me that I had to change if I wanted to survive. This doesn’t work as you probably know. Telling someone what to do is simply that- an opinion, wish and hope that the person will listen.
People with bipolar aren’t very good at listening to others. True change. True management comes from within.
So I changed. I decided that I would be celibate unless I was in a relationship. This completely stopped my manic, hyper sexual cruising that got me into so much trouble. I miss a lot of that behavior. But not enough to ever go back to it.
I changed my idea of partying to one of hanging out with people I like, doing things I find fun. The super late nights of getting drunk and meeting new and exciting people simply had to end, or I knew my life would eventually end due to the dangers I continually got into while manic.
The depression that was eating me alive was finally managed with a medication I now take faithfully, even with the weight gain.
People who made me ill or couldn’t handle my new lifestyle had to go.
I grieve my unaware life. I was sick all of the time, but I felt happier. Now, I live with moderation. It’s not as wild. I grieve for the life I thought I could have. Lots of men and travel and working as much as I want. That dream was only that. It wasn’t real. No one can do what mania tells us we can do.
I grieve over having a limiting illness. I can live with the grief. Every year, and it has been almost ten years now since I fully took control of my bipolar, and it gets better. The loss is less. The grief is minor. Life is better.
Julie A. Fast is the author of "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder," "Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder," "Get it Done When You’re Depressed" and "The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder." She is a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
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