Having bipolar can rock your world, but take heart—there are
some pros to all the cons.
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is a tough pill to swallow. From pharmaceutical decisions to disclosure decisions, it can become a crippling time of anxiety, frustration, and upheaval. That feeling of brokenness can be hard to shake, but remembering that there’s a giant spectrum of mental illness—and that you’re in crowded company—can help. Here are a few other great things to embrace about having bipolar.
1. You Do More Living
With the brain chemistry of bipolar disorder, we can hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A person with this diagnosis may experience major depression spells, loss of job and income, and annihilation of relationships; they may also experience creative success, a fantastic new focus on life, and strong connections with other people—all in one lifetime!
But consider this . . .
Do you have to have bipolar disorder to lose your job? No way! All kinds of people lose their jobs, and for all kinds of reasons—including their behavior. No one is alone in that. Job loss not exclusive to people with bipolar disorder.
Do you have to have bipolar disorder to shift your focus on life? No way! There are myriad reasons for any person to reevaluate the way they’re going about life. The all-too-familiar “Life Crisis” knows no bounds. Frankly, society would probably be better off if MORE people took a time-out to review and adjust their behaviors and environment—just like we must do in order to manage our bipolar disorder.
The wide gamut of feelings and experiences that come along with bipolar
brain chemistry make way for the ability to understand, connect, and empathize
with more people. “Extreme feelings” are not limited to those of us with mood
disorders—but since we have a lot of experience with extreme feelings, we are
able to identify with many different “normal” people who are going through a
dramatic or tumultuous time.
When the day comes that I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be one of these
people who thinks, “Ah! I regret that I didn’t do more living!” Because, let me
tell you, with bipolar disorder, it feels like I’m living about three lives at
2. You Are Able to Focus on Your Well-Being
It can be devastating to accept that you’re
not cut out for a typical full-time job. But for many of us with bipolar disorder,
that’s reality. Without control over our brain chemistry, we are subject to
needing extended, unpredictable periods of sick leave.
Mainstream society places so much importance on business, money, and status, that values like thoughtfulness, flexibility, and tolerance often fall by the wayside in the business world. So, more often than not, people with bipolar disorder find that they don’t fit well in a full-time job with a company.
Whether you’ve lost
your job, quit your job, changed your job, or switched to a part-time work
schedule, embracing the change is ultimately what is best. Without the confines
of a nine-to-five, you are free to be who you are, and at your own chosen pace.
Notwithstanding financial difficulties, isn’t this the best way to live? To
find a balance between work and life? When bipolar precludes us from having a
full-time job, we may feel as if our hand has been forced; but it’s actually a
nudge in the direction of self-care.
inspired by the stories of other people with bipolar who find that balance by
starting their own businesses, working freelance gigs, and/or dedicating time
to supporting the others with bipolar. It can be liberating to be outside the
standard business world! Without so many employer-imposed rules, we have
greater freedom to pursue our best interests—and our best selves.
3. People Think We Are Adventurous and Spontaneous—and It’s True!
Did you ever see Mad Love? In that movie, Drew Barrymore plays a character with bipolar who experiences a lengthy manic episode, and, subsequently, an epic crash. When this film came out, it was one of the first times that I heard of a character being described as a “manic pixie.” Other classic “manic pixies” in cinema include Natalie Portman in Garden State; Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted; and Katie Holmes in Touched with Fire. These roles are characterized by wild spontaneity, extreme sadness, and, of course—charming sexiness. I definitely bristle at the term “manic pixie.” It dismisses their personhood, reducing them from a full human being to something meant to be sexualized and minimized.
BUT. There is some
truth in this character trope. We ARE spontaneous, we DO experience extreme
sadness, and—doggone it—people like us!
Maybe it’s because
our brain chemistry gives us ridiculous/hilarious thoughts to share, helps us shed
our inhibitions, or entices us to have exciting adventures. But I’d wager that
every person reading this has lit up a room or a conversation with their charm
or exuberance. That’s a good thing.
Look for the Silver Lining and Find the Gold Mine
. . . See? There are aspects of our diagnosis that we can appreciate. This is not to say that we do everything with a perfectly balanced risk-evaluation strategy, of course. But let’s be real: Who does? Making bad judgements and needing downtime may be persistent side effects of bipolar that we have to take more seriously than the rest of the population does—but these side effects are still phenomena that everyone experiences.
Each person with bipolar
can be a gold mine of support for others. We can connect and empathize with a
wider range of people and experiences than everyone else can. Because we’ve
been there. And we’re still here.
They say “it takes a village,” and it’s true—all people have a role in encouraging a healthy society in general. But for us, it takes a nation. Even if you choose to keep your diagnosis private, you are automatically enrolled in the “bipolar nation.”
If you have bipolar, you are part of our family. We are here via support groups and the internet to listen to and support each other wholeheartedly. You are heard, welcomed, and understood here. After all, we are more than 6 million strong.
Brooke Baron has a B.A. in English, a Minor in Philosophy, and a lifelong obsession with language. Although born and raised in Alabama, she has been a proud California resident for 10+ years.
During a professional stint in Silicon Valley—in both the corporate and private business sectors—she handled internal and external communications, office design and construction, photography and graphic design, executive assistance, and functioning on very little sleep.
Brooke now specializes in ‘New Human Orientation’ from her home in the suburbs. She has a young, loving, growing family of five and is fueled by that love and coffee.
In addition to caring for the rest of Team Baron, she enjoys writing, reading, researching miscellaneous topics, and funneling manic energy into creative projects. With so many balls in the air—including Bipolar II Disorder—balancing her life is like balancing two kangaroos on a see-saw.
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