What It's Like to Live with Bipolar Disorder


The best way I can describe living with Bipolar is that it is like living with cancer. Bipolar is a beautiful monster, albeit a deadly one -- one which, if left untamed, has no qualms about consuming you alive. It is an illness that must be faced and fought back each day to prevent greater progression and malignancy. Some days are easier than others. But the potential for illness recurrence is always there. I say this not to discourage anyone with Bipolar or to make light of cancer, but instead to highlight the seriousness and gravity that treatment and self care for Bipolar must hold.

Interestingly, I also recently came across a viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association which supports the utility of treating bipolar disorder like cancer in order to prevent greater recurrence and progression. I found this article interesting as few individuals describe the management of Bipolar in this way. Change is needed.

Through living with bipolar disorder, I now have a greater appreciation for the pain that some people must live with and carry with them each day. There are people in the world who suffer silently, invisibly, demonstrating an incredible amount of courage to get out of bed and face themselves in the mirror each day. Sometimes, it can take a lot of guts to stay alive. It can be brave to hope. 

Sometimes I feel as if my life prior to my hypomanic episode as one in which I was a spinning top -- one precisely balanced and spinning rapidly at a right angle on its tip. During the episode, my top began to lose its balance -- wobbling to and fro in a deeper wider fashion, losing all direction. Afterwards, I had to learn how to live with this new wobble, how to continue maintaining the spin -- a difficult task as the top had been fundamentally changed: I could never really get it to spin the way that it used to again.

So a part of my healing process has been acceptance, and learning to live with pain in a way that doesn't cause my wobbles to worsen, but to stay calm with the wobbles so that I can stay spinning. Through this, I've found that some people will help coach you through the wobbles. Others will leave your life , unable to be there for you through the wobbles; perhaps they dislike wobbles or have enough of their own. And still others will wobble along with you, laughing, crying, and dancing with you through them.

This is my new normal. And I’m learning that though there are difficult parts to it, there are good parts too.