Hope in Bipolar

My life with bipolar thus far has been an incredible learning experience. Over the course of my formal diagnosis, I have become the most self-aware I’ve ever been in my entire life.

That self-awareness did not happen by chance. The happiness and peace that fill my life today – did not happen by chance. My dad always said to me, “anything worth having is worth working for”, and believe me those words never rang more true than when I wanted to find peace and happiness. I wanted to escape chaos and pain; the demons in my head, the self-hatred, the daily suicidal thoughts. I wanted to escape it all.

I wanted happiness. I wanted a life I loved living.

I am so happy that I can tell you all, I am living that life. I worked for it, I invested time in myself; my mental health, my physical health, my spiritual health, building healthy relationships and removing toxic ones. I often cried from exhaustion because it felt like a lost cause, a losing battle BUT I had a vision of the life I wanted to live. I had a vision of the woman I wanted to become and that woman would not be defined by her diagnosis.

I joined a FB page for women with bipolar, and I’ve since then removed myself from that page. I could not bare the toxicity of the majority of the posts (not all BUT the majority). The negative energy that was being spread and applauded. The women in this group found comfort in comparing their terrible experiences or attitudes. There were no silver linings or learning experiences to be found on this page. They hated their diagnosis and as such it was projected on how they viewed themselves and consequently their loved ones.

My life is NOT perfect. How I handle my diagnosis is NOT perfect. But I’ll be darned to ever let anyone think happiness amd stability is out of their grasp because of a diagnosis. Happiness and stability are available to everyone. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder than others to achieve it or keep it.

I want to be clear and transparent when I say I’ve hated myself. I’ve hated my life. I’ve been in toxic relationships. I’ve felt like I was a burden to my loved ones. I felt like finishing my education was out of my grasp. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve hurt myself intentionally. I’ve spent money to the point I had to declare bankruptcy. I’ve ruined relationships and broken trust. I’ve cried oceans of tears for days and nights without rest.

But I did not settle for that life.

I felt and experienced those things as so many people do with bipolar – there is no shame. I am not ashamed of the life I’ve lived and the battle scars I’ve acquired. I want you to understand, I am not trying to sit here saying I am holy than thou and my life is magical. I want you to understand that there is hope. That if I can find happiness with my life – with bipolar – you can too.

If you are new to your diagnosis. If you are a veteran with your diagnosis, if you hate your diagnosis, if you feel helpless with the cards you’ve been dealt in this life. I’m here to tell you it can get better.

I’m going to be blunt when I say, it doesn’t have to get better. It really doesn’t, your life can be miserable till the end of time – it all comes down to you. You and what you want to work for. I promise you that if you put in the work, even when you don’t feel like it OR feel nothing at all (because let’s not kid ourselves – it happens) you will see yourself and this diagnosis in a way you never thought possible.

Will all your problems go away? Heck no! Will the highs and the lows vanish? Not a chance! But will you feel like you can handle them a bit better than you could before? Yes.

I knew deep down my life was not meant to be lived with all the pain I was living in. I knew that people loved lifè and why should I be exempt from feeling that love of life also? When I was diagnosed my life was in shambles, this diagnosis terrified me BUT it also gave me hope.

When you have hope, your possibilities are endless. The hope I gained from my diagnosis was a tiny seed. However, by reading about this disorder, educating myself, participating in all the therapy available to me – that hope grew day by day. Sometimes it faltered but I nourished it the best I could AND it grew stronger.

Hope and hard work – that is what my reality of living a life I love is made of.

I encourage you to look at your diagnosis not as a burden but as a symbol of hope. Cling to this hope and know that happiness is not reserved for a select few. Cling to this hope and recognize how valuable you are, how divine your potential is. Please recognize that from the depths of despair we can rise into unthinkable joy.

My life, my diagnosis – NOT perfect. But I can say I love my life and I consider myself happy. Yes, I’m sad and I feel empty sometimes but it makes me recognize and value my happiness so much more when I get to experience it again. Silver linings.

Bipolar is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Thinking that bipolar is the worst thing to happen to you – that is the worst thing that can happen to you.

– Steph

A Cure

Alright. Where to begin.

Over the past while I have been plagued by some memories of my past – in particular a relationship. This relationship extended over years, a brief history to understand the extent of this connection is the fact that I first met this individual in Jr. High School and in later years after keeping in contact we began a relationship (enough said).

The fact that this individual and the memories surrounding him crossed my mind was a constant discomfort to me. I felt guilty. I felt terrible. I felt like I was betraying my relationship, my husband – my marriage. It was something I talked to my doctors about and it was the same old solution – let the memories come – let them go – and do not judge yourself. Yah. No. Not working.

That advice was easier said than done. However, in one session with a random therapist in the new city I am in, something was said and it triggered a series of thoughts that I will get to in a little bit. What this psychologist said was “perhaps the memories are not the problem BUT it is the credit we give them, the power we give them as we try to rationalize them and make sense of why they are happening”. Okay – now I can definitely appreciate that new insight. It was something I had never thought about in LITERALLY countless hours of thinking.

I was adding fuel to the fire as I tried to determine what each and every individual memory meant and quite frankly as was to be determined THEY MEANT NOTHING.

BUT this is where it gets good… the comment the psychologist made was good food for thought BUT what really made me shake my head with a new found outlook on my life was a conversation with my older sister.

I called my sister in a frenzy during a lunch break, I was feeling sick from the amount of memories crossing my mind. I felt like it was getting worse NOT better and that I had no control over my mind anymore. I felt like I was looking backwards despite the fact that I was trying oh so very hard to appreciate and look forward into my bright future with the man of my dreams.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?!

Did I still have unresolved feelings? I couldn’t. I knew I didn’t.

The relationship I was reflecting on ended on bad terms and was over almost 5 years ago, sure we kept in touch but, I AM IN LOVE WITH MY HUSBAND, no doubt in my mind or heart that he is my living heart beat.

So why the chaos? Why was my mind creating a problem where there was none?

Simply for that reason. There is no chaos in my life. MIND BLOWN! That was the insight my sister shared that changed my life. Like the therapist said my constant trying to “figure out” the memories was adding fuel to a fire. The fire set being myself.

For the last 9 years as my sister helped describe to me – my life which has been a roller coaster (excluding the most recent year), I was in one terrible relationship after the other. For may of those years I was undiagnosed and living in a hell on earth. I was functioning in chaos. That was my normal. My normal was to be in defence mode, to be fighting with myself and the men that I loved in any relationship I entered, because they were almost always toxic relationships (don’t ask me why). Associating with people in my past relationships was like a drug addiction. My normal was wayyy up high on the chaos wagon, not down low in a mellow peaceful state.

My husband is the polar opposite of chaos (which was one of the reasons I fell in love with him). He is a calm in the storm. He is peaceful, literally the opposite of anything I had ever experienced since the age of 17.

That’s not to say that I have not enjoyed my life and journey over the past 10 years. There have been amazing moments and serious leaps and bounds of self realization. For instance the memories I was thinking back on were good for the most part BUT deep down I wasn’t reminiscing on the memory; what I now know is that my mind was trying to recreate the chaos and panic I was living in during that time of my life, so for convenience it was bringing up that particular time in my life AND because it was about an ex of course that would create drama in my present life, where there would otherwise be none!

CRUEL BUT BRILLIANT. Just thinking about how my mind when thru all that effort to simulate chaos so that my body could feel like it was in a state of normalcy is incredible. The mind is a force to be reckoned with.

But in actuality, what has this epiphany done. It has calmed the storm my friends. I am no longer plagued by memories, a fleeting one may come and go BUT it is no where near as chaotic as it was. I know what is going on and why it is happening. I have the power again. There is no power in the memory.

I can’t emphasize how happy and at peace I feel. I have been sleeping better, I feel happier over all.

I know. I know. I know. I know that I am adjusting to this new “normal”, this new peaceful relationship – life in a new city, with a new job, away from my family and doctors.

I know that my mind was playing with me trying to recreate a sad excuse of a “comfort zone”, because my new zone was too good to be true. It blows my mind to say that I grew comfortable in my chaos, that is what I knew and expected. Is it what I wanted – NOT AT ALL. However, I was conditioned to normalize the experiences in my life because they were my normal – which doesn’t make them healthy.

I am healthy today. I am happy today. I have been chaos free for over a year and my mind has plagued me the entire time, trying to find a problem where there was none. (the memories were the only thing causing mayhem in my personal life)

All of my memories. All the feelings being brought up had absolutely nothing to do with the individual they were about, rather they about the state I was in at that point in my life. He has no power over me. He has no place in my life. He is in the past.

I am free.

I am not sure if this post captured the essence of this discovery, but if you are being plagued by memories give yourself a moment to ask yourself if the plague is actually about the person or rather the state you were in at that time. Your mind might be playing with you like mine did to me. The memories were a façade for a deeper problem.

But like I said a million times over and I will say it to my grave, once you acknowledge the problem and give it a name, once you know what is troubling you, YOU are that much more capable of resolving it.

Hallelujah and amen! I hope that if anyone is experiencing a similar situation this gave you some insight, and if not I hope you enjoyed the read.

-Steph