I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder for 10,220 days.
Today is World Bipolar Day. I am a Chronically Awesome, Thriving Survivor of a mood disorder that I share with 10 million Americans. As someone with Bipolar Disorder, I cannot help but think of all that I have accomplished in spite of what this disease has thrown in my face. What I have done regardless of what hurdles this illness has put on the track in front of me.
Today is a good day for me to think about what I have mastered in this life. When I see all of the gifts, all of the joys, all of the results of hard work and labors of love, I know that I am the winner of this war. This synaptic accident in my brain will not break me.
It is very easy to think about the troughs and forget about the peaks. I am not talking about depressions versus manias. If you know me, you know that I am opposed to the glorification of mania. Mania, to me, is just as miserable as depression. I am talking about the victories versus the f*ck ups.
I sometimes view myself as a failure. I think that my parents see me as the lost child that wasted her life. Then I remember college when they saw me grab that degree. I remember the 15 years of respect from an entire industry. I am not a failure.
I have been diagnosed bipolar for more years of my life than I have not been bipolar. I got my first job when I was 15 1/2. I have spent more years of my life employed than I have been unemployed.
Why would I ever think that I am worth less than the rest? Worthless? No way.
I have lived for years with this monkey on my back. So many that I have trained him to live, instead, on my shoulder. I have tamed it a bit. He has almost mastered the accordion.
Yes, shit happens. Significant life events change you. The difference is one simple thing; I have matured. The kind of maturity that made me a pro at managing this big scary roller coaster for 28 years. I look out, and I see the glow of the world around me. I see the halo above my partner’s head, and it reminds me that I was capable of snatching up someone who cares. I see the accomplishments before I see the foibles.
When I crash.
Because I won’t be so brazen as to say that I don’t crash.
The blankets, the bed, the cuddle of a dog or two for a day or two comes along when it comes along.
My American Express bill is Exhibit A reminding me that I do still fly a little too close to the sun.
And when it happens I forgive my brain and remember that it isn’t “ME.” Having any illness is not a judgment of my character or a blemish on my soul.
When I return from the chaos, I see that the monkey on my shoulder is grinning its smug grin. I smack him upside the head, and I move on. I must move on. It is the only direction worth going.
10,220 days. I cannot go back from there, not when there is so much to look forward to. I wonder what 11,000 will look like?
Visit the Bipolar section of The Chronically Awesome Foundation’s Condition Center to find my Bipolar Diary.
You can visit the WEGO Health Bipolar Patient Portal to meet leaders in the mental health community ready to help you with your questions about Bipolar Disorder.