We all hear the phrase “there’s no such thing as normal”, but what I mean by normal is someone who does not have a mental health condition like I do. You could then argue that everyone is on a spectrum of mental health, but I think living with a condition like Bipolar disorder is different from having an episode of depression.
It’s comparable to living with diabetes. I have to take my medication to stay stable and avoid hospitalization, just like a diabetic takes insulin. However, it’s not the fact that I have to take medication that makes me feel less normal. Popping the lithium pills at night and aripiprazole in the morning, strangely enough, feels okay to me. I think it’s the very least and most basic self care that I do even on my bad days, as I know deep down that hospitalization sets me back a few years in terms of health.
It’s weird though, as when I was pregnant and off all medication, I felt happy and healthy…but I wasn’t sleeping and becoming increasingly reckless and that resulted in a psychotic manic episode in week 28 of my pregnancy and sectioning.
So it’s not the medication that makes me feel abnormal. It’s the depression and anxiety and the fact that I have to battle to do things that those without bipolar seemingly have no trouble with.
Am I trying to live life like I think an average healthy person does? Is that a losing battle as I will always have bipolar? How do you just accept your condition and not feel totally different from everyone else?
It’s classified as a disability, but not visible, so is it unreasonable to want to feel able as that’s what others see?
Then maybe it’s just about lifestyle. Like a diabetic has to watch their diet and exercise, I have to have a relatively low stress lifestyle – plus watch my diet and exercise.
I think it’s the benchmark that I’m aiming for that is confusing me. What am I aiming for when I think of a life where I have overcome my symptoms of bipolar? I think the trap I tend to fall into is to look at what healthy people’s activities are, rather than their ways of thinking. And it’s very difficult to know how healthy non bipolar or those without mental health difficulties think. That’s where psychology comes in. If you think healthy, then you will be healthy on the inside.
Then there’s the question about personality. I feel like I’ve been this way since childhood, but I have to remember that my true personality shines when I’m in a good mood and that just because I have an anxiety disorder, does not mean I have an anxious personality. Bipolar is a mood disorder, so just because I am manic does not mean I am happy all the time and conversely depression does not mean I don’t have a sense of humour…even though it feels that way sometimes.
Tell me your benchmarks for recovery. How do you know you’ve overcome the bulk of this condition?