World Bipolar Day
This morning I woke up Bipolar. The same as I have for the last 30 years. Yep. I hit the big three ohhh this year. Happy World Bipolar Day.
Happy World Bipolar Day
Is that right? Do you say “Happy”? I suppose that depends on the terms you have come to with your illness. Have you had a discussion with your Bipolar Disorder and set the rules? Have you told your mania how far it is allowed to go before you get to take back the control and pump the breaks? Have you sat down with your depression for a frank conversation about the life that goes on around you while you stop living for awhile? Just how long are you going to let depression pull you under before you realize that you need air?
You Ask A Lot Of Questions!
So many questions! That is because hard, serious, difficult to answer questions were what I had to ask and answer to get my house in order. I had to treat myself like three people: the person I want to be, the manic person, and the depressed person. The person I want to be is the parent to the other two. She is the driver of the car, the pilot.
We recently bought a car that drives itself. Truth! You turn on the cruise control, you set the speed, then you flick the stick thing one more time, and you can let go of the wheel for a period of time, and the car LITERALLY drives on its own. No reasonable person would invent, or drive such a car without making some rules. These rules remind me of the rules that I have established for myself that have made living with Bipolar Disorder just like waking up every morning the same mundane process.
No reasonable person would invent, or drive such a car without making some rules. These rules remind me of the rules that I have established for myself. The guide that makes living with Bipolar Disorder just like waking up every morning the same mundane process.
What Is Your Safe Speed?
Set the car at a safe speed. This auto driving feature does not go over 55 mph. If you reach 55 mph it stays there, if you push the gas, it shuts the feature off. I have learned my speed. I know how to gauge my 55 mph and when I reach it I stop. I can hear my pushed speech. I can see how much I am spending, and so can my husband. If he tells me to stop, or I feel like I have to hide that I have purchased something that is over my 55 mph.
Distractions and Limits
The car will not drive on its own in a place where there are too many intersections. There is no AutoPilot when no clear barrier between traffic coming from the other direction, or too much “stuff” in the area. I cannot get myself in a situation where I have to do too much at once. If I do that, I get disorganized, frazzled, and pushed. I begin working too long, and too hard. I do not take care of myself. I fail to eat and sleep. My OCD gets triggered, and I begin to spin out. Not only do I have too much to do but I begin over scrutinizing all of my work. It is a bloody mess.
I have problems pumping the breaks here. Getting out of the way of my own noise is where the autopilot’s rule about not allowing too much to happen at once is excellent. All of the distraction is hard on me. Too much on my plate is a challenge. I am no longer in an office environment. I do contract work and run my nonprofit from home. The work, at times, gets a bit hairy, but that is not typical. My environment is kept calm by design.
And when it all gets too much the crash is hard, the fall is long, the pain is deep. Depression is something that takes a great deal of strength to fight against. It is the hardest of the two children to reason with.
When I find myself waking to the desire to not wake I give myself some space. Because I meditate I am able to ask myself if I am situationally or chemically depressed. Situations are easier to solve than chemicals. When I have a chemical depression I have to push. I push like I am Sisyphus pushing the rocks up the hill. Like it is my job. Even if it feels futile and I must do it over, and over, and over again.
I give myself a day, only a day. The next day I play pretend. The next day I simply am NOT depressed. I get up and DO.
Don’t shake your head at me. I can do this, but it takes years of practice. The thing about practice is that you have to start doing it to keep doing it. That is what practice is.
And sometimes I fail. When I do I get up the next day and try again.
With Bipolar Comes Great Responsibility
Jules take the wheel: This self-driving feature is self-driving to a point. You must take the wheel often. If you do not have your hands on the steering wheel after three warnings, the feature disengages. When you have Bipolar Disorder, you have an illness that comes with great responsibility. Just like driving a 4323 lb car, you cannot let yourself blindly race through life just hoping you are not going to wrap yourself around a tree. You need to learn all of these things so that you are safe at the wheel. You need to be the one driving the car regardless of how much fun or creative or helpful mania may be. Take the wheel and know when it is time to pump the breaks.
For me, taking responsibility for my disease means taking my meds. Medication noncompliance is a major issue in the Bipolar community. I have been compliant with my medication for well over a decade, close to two. Missing my meds isn’t even an options. To stay compliant, I must also see my psychiatrist regularly. I do.
Therapy, for me, is important. Therapy, in the beginning, is what taught me how to deal with my symptoms. I learned how to come to terms with the manias, the depressions, the hypomanias, and all of the other very uncomfortable things about being Bipolar. I learned to recognize and even battle symptoms. Now therapy means keeping things cool. I need someone to talk to about those things that no one else wants to or cannot understand.
Yes! Happy World Bipolar Day!
My conclusion? Yes, “Happy World Bipolar Day.” Today you should celebrate your progress, celebrate all of the times you have fallen and picked yourself up again. Happy World Bipolar Day to all of you who are having the conversation with yourself and learning how you want to manage your disease. Happy World Bipolar Day to you for knowing that you cannot let your disease manage you.
PS: As I finished this post I learned that the car’s software was updating to a new version. Our AutoPilot can now go to 80. Add “adaptability” to the list of skills we need to develop!