“Just be yourself,’ they say... “Never give up,” they say... “You never know until you try,” they say... But mainstream platitudes don’t always apply—especially for those of us with bipolar. Here are the problems I see with well-known, well-meaning words of wisdom. (And some bipolar-friendly alternatives!)
Whether it has caused financial trouble, broken relationships, or just fifty shades of red on our faces, I think it’s safe to say that all of us with bipolar have had our periods of poor judgment. And although we certainly can’t blame every wrong move we’ve made on the disorder, with bipolar it’s easy to go beyond the occasional misdirected flight-of-fancy and jump right into “bipolar-bad-decision mode.”
There I was, in the bakery on a lovely Saturday morning, perusing the case of freshly made donuts and the hilarious names that they had been given. I saw one called “Cereal Killer,” which is a donut topped with cereal; one called “Glazed and Confused,” which is a simple glazed donut; and then I saw one called—you guessed it—“The Bipolar.”
I found a new layer of meaning in the old “life’s a journey, not a destination” adage. I realized that mood tracking can be done in many different ways, and they’re allinsightful—but none are all-encompassing. At each stage, I learned just a little. And when I add up all those little lessons, I have a much better map of my specific pattern of mood ebb and flow.
After I received my bipolar diagnosis, I spent a lot of time on a hamster wheel of anxiety, dread, confusion, sadness, guilt, paranoia, anger, and isolation (forgive me if I left anyone out!). I spent a lot of time telling myself, As soon as I get this bipolar stuff under control, THEN I’ll get back to my life.
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. There are many great things to embrace about having bipolar.
There are a handful of movies that aim to demonstrate the experience of having bipolar disorder. To be honest, I have yet to identify strongly with any of those movies or characters. With that said, there are definitely times when, for me, Hollywood hits the nail on the head—just by accident.