At a recent appointment with my counselor Brian, I told him I was thinking of closing out my blog. When we looked at it together, we saw that I have been writing it for over five years. The initial purpose, in my mind, was to expose the ramifications of my mental illness in the hope that bringing light to these might somehow lessen or modify them. Instead, I believe acute examination has confirmed what I already knew and believed about bipolar disorder: for me, at least, it’s a lifelong condition that requires most of my energy if I am to remain stable.
I certainly see the validity of hope for those recently diagnosed, that they may do better than I have with the disorder. The presence of many more effective drugs these days, the increased knowledge in psychiatry, the efficacy of cognitive therapy…all promise that people diagnosed early may check the progression of the illness before significant damage is done.
My youngest son recently emailed me from his Buddhist monastery and said, “I think your friends would be surprised at how much you struggle with your disorder.” In a way, this made me feel proud—that perhaps I don’t show as much weakness as I feel—but in another way, it made me think it’s time to stop complaining about BP. I have documented my struggles a hundred different ways, interpreted the symptoms from many different perspectives. I might just as well shoulder (what I perceive as) my cross and accept its burden as the burden I am by now most equipped to deal with, thanks to a monumental amount of help and support since my first breakdown at age 25.
This fall I enjoyed a wonderful week-long vacation with my daughter’s family that helped me recognize my own positive prognosis. Surrounded by seven people expert in giving and receiving love, I found I could put aside the residual fear of relapse that has hampered my appreciation of life. While remaining careful to continue the healthful habits that nurture my mental stability, I achieved a new confidence in my emerging, sane self.
This awareness was further enhanced when I kept my son’s two children for a long weekend.
My counselor had assured me the vacation would be great, and he was not surprised. I shared with my psychiatrist that I now see myself differently. When the occasional self-deprecating messages start to play in my brain, I remind myself: “No, that is no longer true! I am better than that—a proved fact!—and I don’t have to put myself down any longer.”
Dr. M. said, “From now on, we’re giving you a new script.” And he didn’t mean a new drug. He meant that, continuing on the same three meds that have served me well for the last three and a half years, I am living a “new” story, one based on health rather than disease. Best of all, he implied that the BP can be considered manageable!
And so I have decided to continue the blog. But it will be more about celebrating my life and less about bemoaning my ancient diagnosis of bipolar one.
The blog that I began with such enthusiasm these many years ago has run its course. I have had it printed for my counselor, myself, and my children, should they ever want to read it. At this time I wish to embrace wellness and continue to share whatever insights I discover on living productively with a serious mental illness.