What Are You Willing to Sacrifice for Bipolar Stability?

Last Updated: 10 Aug 2020

To reach sustained mood stability, I’ve had to make significant sacrifices in my life. Now, as I step up as an advocate, I’m facing hard questions: Was it worth it?

bipolar mood stability sacrifices lifestyle medication management good mental health

Advocacy & Answers to Hard Questions about Bipolar

Since I came out of the closet, so to speak, about my very private life, specifically about having bipolar disorder, and wrote a book about my journey, Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping, I started to speak out in my community, accepting every chance to spread the word about living with bipolar—what it’s really like. I will do anything to break the stigma associated with bipolar disorder.

I often get asked personal questions, which can be stressful at times. Questions about just how I manage to work as an instructional assistant for special education while having bipolar disorder. Questions about how bipolar affects my marriage of 13 years. And so on.

I have thought hard about the answers. There are many aspects of life that factor into good mental health. On this site, you will find the usual ones—consistent sleep routines, regular exercise, good eating habits, taking medicine consistently, creating and relying on a large support network, etc. I have written about these as well.

When I think about how I am able to work in a stressful situation, it is because I am willing to make sacrifices on a daily basis in order to guard my mental health with everything I have. Sort of like a knight puts on his protection before going to battle.

Fear of (& Actually) Missing Out

Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on life. I live in Las Vegas. We often have family and friends coming for a visit and want to get together during the weeknights. There are concerts that I miss, too. The most recent was a band that I love, Blues Traveler. My husband went without me. I was practically in tears. But I chose not to go. We were given tickets to the Smith Center, a cultural place in Las Vegas to see musicals. We had to give the tickets away because I did not want to stay out late.

I have to take my medicine at 7:30 p.m. during weeknights. It takes a while for my medicine to take effect. I am in bed between the hours of 9 and 10 pm. If I don’t follow my sleep routine, I can’t do my job. I am an impatient and crabby educator with my students if I don’t get enough shut-eye, and they don’t deserve that.  My husband also suffers as a result. I get grumpy.

Coping with Bitterness

This makes me bitter at times. Why do I have to stay home and miss out? I curse the very words bipolar disorder. I have struggled with it since 1995. Usually, I throw a pity party. People who don’t have bipolar don’t have to worry about this. My other coworkers don’t think twice about it.

I sacrifice drinking alcohol. I will admit, in my younger days, I drank socially while also taking prescription drugs—including mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. I never got heavily intoxicated, but I DO NOT recommend that anyone who is medicated like me drink at all. I found that it interfered with my medications’ effectiveness and gave me complete insomnia. Yuck.

Our Biggest Sacrifice of All: Family

The biggest sacrifice my husband and I have made is the hardest decision of our lives. We chose not to have kids, because I have bipolar disorder.

Before I get hate comments—please realize, the choice to have kids or not to have kids is a personal choice for every couple. I am NOT saying people who have bipolar should not be having children. I am saying that, for my husband and me, this was our choice.

I dreamed of being my mom my whole life. My husband would have made the greatest father. We were married a little later in life, in our 30s. We prayed on what God’s will in our marriage when we made the decision not to have children. We decided that I should not go off my medication in order to have a baby. We also knew there was a risk that I could pass it on to the baby. God has provided us children in other ways.

We are the Godparents of a beautiful, tall, ten-year-old, brown-eyed girl with wisdom beyond her years. She fills us with more joy than she can ever even imagine. We have been a part of her life from the get-go. I also work in a school where I am surrounded by elementary-school students. So I find fulfilment in other ways.

Are These Sacrifices Worth Bipolar Mood Stability?

Is any sacrifice—big or small—worth it in order to have stability with bipolar disorder? I have found the answer to be yes. I have experienced years of stability, and I believe one of the reasons is because of the sacrifices I continue to make.

Think about your life if you have bipolar. Are there sacrifices that are uncomfortable but necessary? Have you recognized your own sacrifices and choices? How do you feel about them?

About the author
Susan Johnson graduated from Drake University with a BA in sociology. She is the author of Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping: A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey. Since her diagnosis of bipolar I in 1995, Susie's true passion in life is to help break the stigma of mental illness and to bring hope to those who live with one. An accomplished inspirational speaker and guest blogger at bpHope Blog, Susie was the subject of a “This Is Me” Q&A in bp Magazine in 2018. Her writing also appears in the Catholic Exchange, the Kingdom Revelator, and Las Vegas Pet Scene Magazine. Susie co-leads a mental health group at her church and currently works with special education students as an instructional assistant for a school district in Nevada. She will be speaking at TEDxTenayaPaseo in January 2021. And she enjoys hiking, baking, traveling, practicing yoga, spending time with her Goddaughter, and taking trips to Cancun. Originally from Thousand Oaks, CA, Susie now makes her home in fabulous Las Vegas with her husband, Gary, and Siberian cat, Angel-Ann. Visit her website, SJohnsonAuthor.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
  1. Best article yet.
    Delay for treatment is an epidemic.
    Maybe an app to weigh up pros and cons may assist too.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story and your discipline. I was touched by your story and it took me years to admit that if I had known that I was bipolar I would not have children either. However, because I have always believed that things happen exactly as they should, I am now a proud mother of two beautiful children, I was diagnosed while pregnant with my second child. I do constantly worry about bipolar being something they will have to deal with, but I also figure that the more I educated myself on the subject the more I will be able to help them if they are diagnosed. Thanks again for sharing your story and I do believe some sacrifices are worth the stability.

  3. I admire your discipline and your self awareness. I am glad it has paid rewards in that you have enjoyed stability. My husband has a diagnosis of bipolar and l can see its other areas he needs to be disciplined in as he is triggered in a different way. It is encouraging to read about someone who came to that knowledge themselves.

  4. Hi Susie, thank you for bringing up this topic I recently turned 28, and I was diagnosed when I was 21, turned 22 in the hospital! My mom took care of me and I used to follow a very strict schedule, diet, sleep and activities until I got sick of that and decided that was no life so 2 years ago I moved out with my dad and lived Yolo life, drinking, partying and staying up really late sometimes I even didn’t sleep at all, I take medicines and I am still able of working but I feel I need to stop now, my memory is not the same and it used to be really good, I even remembered my kindergarden classmates’ full names! But I still find it really difficult to leave my life cause my friends and people in general are able to do it and I struggle with the feeling of being normal, I read you visit Cancun often, I live here, I hope I can meet you and share a tea so you help me with this topic, It would be really good hearing it from a living example.

  5. I’m glad you brought up this topic and shared your story, here is a bit of mine and I hope it can benefit anyone who might be struggling. I was diagnosed very shortly after my son was born and have struggled with the illness ever since. My journey has been long with numerous medications and hospitalizations. At times I would get angry with God, wondering how he could give me such a debilitating illness along with the birth of my child who has given me so much joy (why the suffering?). I would see other moms with what looked like their perfect Facebook friendly lives and wonder why I had to be so different I had so much shame. I did choose not to have more children bc of my diagnosis, I always wanted more but struggled so much following my pregnancy I decided that was my best choice, and now I am happy to have my son and be an aunt.
    I will say though I feel the biggest sacrifice for me with my bipolar has been my career. I worked very hard to get through and pay for college and was so eager to get out into the world of work as a professional woman. Then my illness struck me….I had multiple hospitalizations requiring me to be out of work on short term disability numerous times, followed by long periods of depression, times where I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I work in Accounting and Finance, which tends to be a high pressure job. I was lucky to find a job with flexible hours, but I felt like I was contributing little to the organization and surrounded by so many successful professionals, I felt so different and alone… and again, so much shame… I would see my friends and coworkers getting acknowledged and promoted around me and felt like such a failure… and hated the fact that my collegues would have to pick up my work while I was out for hospitalizations. The life I had was so different from the one I had envisioned growing up with the 3 kids, husband and great career.
    Since then I will say that my life has improved greatly….I am a single mom and my son is now 10. Following a very difficult last year, I have recently been on a journey of self-acceptance and feel much less shame. I am on a medication regimine that seems to work for me and I run 5 miles a day. I currently wake up in the morning typically before 7 am every day with no alarm!!! I am able to cope with my feelings (not that I never get over-whelmed) but my coping skills have improved greatly. I am over a year now hospital free and so proud of my progress :).
    To anyone out there who is struggling, hugs to you, things will improve.

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.