This Bipolar Life: Who Am I, Really?

For years I have said “I am bipolar” when talking about my illness. Now, in therapy lately I’ve been challenged to rethink how I relate to bipolar and its impact on my life. Now I say “I *have* bipolar” which is very different for me and how I hear it.

People’s reactions to my disclosure are always interesting. Mostly folks don’t understand and just start to change the way they talk with me or just ghost me instead. Sometimes people will ask questions and when that happens I’m more than willing to answer. Breaking the stigma is so important.

A good part of my identity shift is because I am being appropriately treated and although I am still going to have episodes over time for right now I have an illness and am functioning fairly well. I am a well functioning person with bipolar disorder. I now know I am capable and stronger than I think or feel. I have made great progress and fully intend to grow into the best me possible.

Because I’m worth the investment. Always.

This Bipolar Life: The Dance

Better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t, right?

If I had known how things were going to turn out there are some choices I might make differently. What I’ve discovered though is that mistakes are lessons to learn. These might be painful to recall and process (with or without therapy) but the truth is just that. Facts can’t be discarded based on what I hope was different. What’s happened has done so and cannot be changed. However, improvement is always available and even a small step forward is sometimes the tiny bit of “oomph!” to give me what I need to keep going. 

I have chosen to see my bipolar disorder as something I treat and effectively work with while pursuing a successful career and relationships. To me it is a dance. One step forward and sometimes a step or two back, but always dancing forward regardless, just not always sure of the tempo.

It’s not something I would like to do and it’s cost me a metric ton of losses over the years but I’m getting better and managing the fancy footwork. Bipolar wants to twist my steps, pull me down or skyrocket me up and I refuse to let it, at least as much as is possible, because I want a stable life. As my therapist and psych dr. both say, I’m pretty stable and my bipolar is being treated successfully. Apparently this means I’m now strong enough to get my shit together, grow up, get a backbone where a wishbone once was and start contributing more intentionally and frequently.

I was resistant at first because I’ve been dancing with my demons for at least 15 years and didn’t think I would ever get out of my entrenched patterns. The truth is I still have a hard time and although I’m working diligently to improve it’s not always forward progress. Due to an excellent therapist and self-knowledge efforts, I know where I’m going but sometimes it feels like I’m just going ‘round and ‘round in circles, you know?

When someone brings a character or behavioral issue to me I try to keep an open mind and be receptive to respectful critique. That’s generally not what happens though. Usually I get immediately defensive and stand my ground regardless of whether I’m right. I tend to think whatever my opinion or version of something is the truth. I forget that my memory is not what I would like and sometimes (ok, lots of times) I need to be reminded to accurately recall something or realize I don’t truly “get it” and finally defer to other people’s memories. As I’m sure you can appreciate this is extremely frustrating, but it is a reality of my disorder.

I survive it. I will continue to do so. As above, it’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t. At this point I am intimately aware of all the ups and downs of bipolar and ready to two-step anytime. I’m the boss of my bipolar.

This Bipolar Life: Remind me. Please.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who would need a small sapling worth of post-its just to keep me organized. I have a paper organizer. I have a fancy-dancy digital organizer. I have my phone calendar and notes. Hell, I even have a “sticky notes” app on my laptop.

Why so many? Because I need that many reminders. Yes, I really do. And so do many people with bipolar disorder. I wonder why it’s such a challenge for us. I know I literally copy things into every one of those formats just so I’ll remember them.

I know everyone forgets things but for people with bipolar disorder it can be quite different. For many of us it’s a brain fog issue. What’s that? Well it’s kind of like how when some stomps on your toe and then asks you to recite the alphabet. Can’t do it, right? Because the brain can only really focus on one thing at a time and people with bipolar disorder are often trying to think *through* the bipolar curtain. As so many memes say, the struggle is real.

I *often* forget appointments. It totally slips my mind that “xyz” likes “abc” on their <insert food here> or that so-and-so doesn’t like to do something. I show up late. I call and cancel. I freeze and don’t call at all. Really. It can get pretty bad.

I live completely unaware of my social calendar, especially when I make plans while manic that my depressed self no longer feels up to doing. I usually don’t realize I’ve done it until afterward and then I have a mess to clean up and an apology to give. Again.

And that’s not even going into the safety aspect.

And yes, brain fog and forgetfulness can be a safety issue. For me at least. I have left burners on, ovens still going, doors unlocked, and more. I now have a piece of paper taped on my stairwell reminding me to check the stove, oven, door, pets and candles. I have the same note by the front door. I need that kind of help. I’m not the only one.

Reminders are important. If you’re worried about using them please remember how beneficial they can be in keeping your world running smoothly and with fewer disappointments. Stop being prideful. Start being humble and recognizing this new limitation that *sometimes* might affect you.

If there is someone in your life you are concerned about please have this conversation with them. Do they need help remembering? Who knows? They might really appreciate it and feel relieved they don’t have to do it all alone anymore. Love comes in many forms and helping someone you care about who needs reminders is just one.

This Bipolar Life: News Update 8/4/19

Here is the latest and greatest news about bipolar disorder throughout the world. Of course this is not exhaustive but it’s a nice wrap up of a few important articles. I hope you enjoy the post and feel free to ask me questions in comments or via email.

The Unacknowledged Prejudice Against People Living With Mental Illness – James Norman (7/13/19)

There is widespread focus on racial, gender and wage, and LGBTQ+ rights/discrimination. However, in my opinion, little attention is given to the facts, conditions and prejudices faced by people with mental illness because of the policies and practices of federal/state agencies, public/private employers, as well as the population at large…

Saoirse Kennedy Hill once wrote about her depression. Patrick Kennedy wants you to read her words – Jason Hanna (8/3/19)

Former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy left office years ago to focus on battling a drug addiction and bipolar disorder. Now, after his relative Saoirse Kennedy Hill died this week, he’s praising her for…

9 Taboo Manifestations of Bipolar Disorder – Cherie Davies (8/2/19)

For me, bipolar is a dense demon to diminish. Although people experience it differently, this symptom showcases the complex nature of bipolar. It can be pretty hard to come to terms with, especially with mental illness being such a taboo subject…

Strategies to help prevent infanticide, suicide in postpartum psychosis – Luykx JJ, et al. JAMA Psychiatry. (7/31/19)

For the prevention of infanticide and suicide in the postpartum period, experts wrote that inpatient care — preferably at a mother-infant unit — is vital to guarantee safety, complete the diagnostic evaluation and initiate treatment…

Thanks for reading and please, if there is something you’d like me to post about, just let me know 🙂

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This Bipolar Life: Be Your Own Boss?

So it’s been said (a lot) the people with severe mental illnesses, like bipolar or schizophrenia, don’t know how or can’t keep a job and they become a drain on society. My story, and those of many others, takes a different turn. I do keep myself employed most of the time. I have switched companies a few times and there have been some fairly large gaps in time but I have always come back to working, at least part-time.

However, what seems to work best for a lot of people with mental illness is to be your own boss. To that end I have started and ended at least four businesses. They all failed. I failed. But then something happened, I got back up again and kept trying. After working for myself once before as a real estate agent (a good one too) I returned to that experience as the basis for my ultimate goal: the ability to earn income no matter where I was in the world. I want to travel and I needed a business that would allow it. I’ve loved grant writing for years and now I’m turning it into my full-time business – finally!

I believe firmly that really making a solid effort to reach a goal can make all the difference and although it can be difficult for me to stay on top of all the moving parts, it is worth it. I prefer to answer to myself (and my clients of course) for my hours, my effort, my outcomes. All of it. I like to be my own boss. I still need accountability. That’s where the challenge comes in and not just for me or people with bipolar but for many solo business owners. Fortunately technology is amazing these days and I can virtual sticky notes for nearly everything and an calendar item for every commitment. I’m getting better and better each time. This much I know.

Clearly I have struggled with this for years but finally have the “oomph” to move forward and combine my passion to create positive change with my writing and research expertise. I have finally launched my grant writing business and I feel relieved. It’s coming into fruition. Now I just need a few clients…lol!

So (shameless plug ahead) with that in mind, if you need funding for a project you’re working on…check out my company: www.mobilegrants.com. You’ll be surprised by what I can find if I just put my (occasionally addled) mind to it!