Your bipolar isn’t who you are, but it is a part of who you are. Accepting that is the first step toward wellness.
I’ve come to think of my bipolar disorder as “the Princess,” after the most annoying and inconsiderate roommate I’ve ever had.
I once shared a rental with a woman I couldn’t stand. She constantly drank my drinks, ate my food, and whined about work. She gave new meaning to the word obnoxious. My two other roommates and I called her “the Princess.”
We lived in North Jersey, worked in New York City, and drank pretty much everywhere. I think of that time as my “roaring twenties”—though, in reality, they were far from glamorous. No parties, no pearls, and my drinking had ceased being social years before.
I was the poster girl of noncompliance. I dealt with my illness the way I’d deal with the Princess when we passed in the hallway: I acknowledged her, sure, but wished she would leave me alone.
I wanted to be free of this illness. I could move away from my food-hogging human roommate, but I couldn’t escape the other Princess. No matter where I moved, there she was, pen in hand to sign our lease.
Eventually, I realized we had to co-exist. Perhaps cohabitation might not be so bad, I thought, if I made some effort to get along. Overnight, the Princess got a black belt in karate and knocked me off my feet. Manic weeks turned into a manic summer, which ended in hospitalization. Recovery took a long time. I had to take leave from my job, my bank account was negative, and, worst of all, I had lost my self-esteem.
Six months later, the Princess and I started over. We moved into a cute apartment near the beach and basked in the sunshine while I reveled in stability. Exercise had always been a dirty word to me, but I cleaned up my act. I quit smoking and stopped drinking. I even went to yoga! I was physically, spiritually, and mentally in the best shape of my life.
Then wham! Another storm blew in: the “great depression” of my 30s. Over the next two years, I was in and out of hospitals seven times. Finally, therapy restored me and I felt a part of the human race again.
I began to dream about other changes. Energized, I launched a writers’ group and began the rough draft of my book. Tired of waitressing, I changed careers and became a real estate agent. I took up pottery and went to the beach. I continued to work with my therapist and doctor, tweak my meds, and focus on sleep. Harmony and wellness moved back into my life.
I’ve found paying attention and being mindful is the secret to my balance. When the Princess becomes temperamental, I practice the art of compromise. And I try not to take her for granted, because that’s when she acts up!
I’ve also come to see that my lifelong companion has some positive qualities. I celebrate my passion and cherish my creativity. I recognize that I have something to contribute to this world, that I do matter.
Bipolar disorder is often demanding, and, yes, exhausting. Yet for the first time in 20 years I can honestly say I feel grateful. And that’s huge.
When I catch myself wishing I could live alone, without this illness, I remember to focus on my gifts. I imagine my horizon is bursting with gold. Just like a princess crown.
Printed as “On My Mind: Making Peace with ‘The Princess,’ Summer 2012
Wendy Williamson had her first manic episode while studying at Virginia Tech, eight weeks before graduation. It was then she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I. After being downsized from corporate America, Wendy wrote her memoir of honesty and hope entitled I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar. She co-wrote her second book: Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder with author Honora Rose.
Wendy writes for BPHope.com and The The Huffington Post. She has written for: BP Magazine, Bipolar Disorder for Dummies: 2nd Edition and The Two River Times. Her book has been reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and National Alliance on Mental Illness’ The Advocate. Wendy is the founder of The Red Bank Writers Group and has been interviewed on over forty radio stations worldwide. Catch up with Wendy on Twitter and at her website.
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