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In honor of World Bipolar Disorder Day I am going to discuss numerous things bipolar disorder has given to and taken away from me. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar type 2 disorder 15 years ago. I knew nothing about the disorder or how it would affect my life for the next 15 years. While there are positives that have come about due to having bipolar, the negatives far outweigh them.
What Bipolar Disorder Has Taken From Me
The ability to work a paying job
Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have tried various ways of staying gainfully employed. I have worked full-time outside of the home and part time from home for a healthcare employer, as well as part time outside of the home and from home for myself. In each situation my bipolar symptoms, especially anxiety (social, general and panic), anger/irritability, and depression, have left me unable to cope with the demands.
I even started a photography business since photography is my favorite hobby, but the business side of it and dealing with people was more than I could handle and bipolar symptoms were triggered. So, I had to quit or continue to suffer the negative health consequences.
My ideal body weight
Bipolar medications have caused me to gain at least 20 pounds over the last 10 years. Couple that with the fact that my previous career involved a lot of exercise that I no longer get and the weight keeps piling on. My rapid cycling moods make sticking to an at-home exercise routine or diet regimen nearly impossible.
The ability to be a stable parent
Unfortunately, my bipolar disorder has negatively affected my children. There have been times where, because of anxiety and depression, I have been unable to get out of bed to be there for them or to attend their activities, and even worse, times where I have been hurtful with my words to them due to hypomanic irritability. I worry that they have picked up their own anxieties from growing up in a household filled with mine.
The ability to socialize and be in public places without extra medication
Bipolar anxiety has left me with an extremely sensitive nervous system that becomes overstimulated with what is typical input for most people. For me, the noises are always too loud, lights too bright, smells too strong, and people too close. I have to take one or two additional medications to cope with all of these stimuli.
Spontaneous changes in my routine
Maintaining mood stability requires that I adhere to fairly strict schedules with my sleep, medications, food intake, and social calendar. I go to bed at the same time each night. A rare late night out can wreak havoc on my mood for days afterwards.
I take my medications on a strict schedule. Forgetting a dose can cause troubling side effects such as light-headedness and nausea.
I eat three meals a day because going too long without eating can affect my moods greatly.
Finally, I have to plan ahead for social events. Any last minute plans or changes to plans can send me into a tailspin.
Parts of my creativity
Before going on certain bipolar medications, I was prolific at writing, especially poetry and mental health blogs. I also painted a lot. I believe antipsychotics dried up those creative wells for me. I just don’t have the same drive and imagination for it anymore.
The ability to stick with something long term
I will often enthusiastically start projects such as writing a book, starting a new blog, beginning an exercise program, creating a house cleaning schedule, starting a new diet, reading a book, or learning a new skill, but after a few weeks my mood will shift and I will abandon whatever it is I began. It’s a pattern I’ve had for nearly my whole life, starting long before I even knew I had bipolar disorder.
Outdoor summer fun
Some of the bipolar medications I take make it difficult for my body to regulate its temperature. Therefore, I’ve had to give up many once enjoyed outdoor activities when the weather is too hot, such as spending the day on the lake with friends, watching the kids’ baseball games, lounging for hours at the pool, going for walks, and doing yard work.
The irritability that comes along with bipolar mood fluctuations has caused me to do or say things that most people might think but never act on and this has caused rifts in some of my friendships.
I also think that because of bipolar disorder my inhibitions can be lower at times in a way that makes it feel like I can’t control what comes out of my mouth and I find myself blurting out comments or answers that are inappropriate.
Paranoia has also caused me to embarrassingly ask friends if they are mad at me or don’t like me anymore which is just awkward for everyone.
Peace of mind
With bipolar disorder’s mood changes and the secondary emotions that can come with it, such as anger, irritability, and anxiety, I am always on edge and wondering what is coming next. Everything internally feels so unpredictable that I can barely ever relax and feel secure about my health. Even when things are going well I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lasting peace of mind seems to forever elude me.
What Bipolar Disorder Has Given to Me
An opportunity to stay home full time and work on my physical, mental, and spiritual health
Because I am home most days by myself, I am able to spend a lot of time learning, reading, writing, reflecting on things, and participating in hobbies, support groups, spiritual groups, and going to as many doctors’ appointments as I need to to reach towards my fullest potential in all areas of my health. If I did not have bipolar disorder, I would be working full time and not have the time to do all of these things.
The ability to truly help my children, who also suffer from mental illnesses
My kids have had multiple physical and mental issues over the years that have required many daytime doctor and therapy visits that I would have not been able to do if I was working a full-time job. Bipolar disorder has forced me out of the work place thereby allowing me to be home for them during some of the most critical and crucial times of their lives.
The ability to support others with mental health issues in real life and online with greater compassion and open-mindedness
Sometimes you can’t imagine what others are going through unless you’ve been through it yourself. I have been through a lot of trauma and heartache including hospitalizations due to suicidal behavior thanks to bipolar disorder. You just can’t help others in the same way when you haven’t experienced these depths of despair as you can when you have. I have something valuable to offer others because of my trials.
What About You and Bipolar Disorder?
What are some things bipolar disorder has taken from you and/or given to you? Share your experiences in the comments.