I have been battling a depressive episode for the last two months. We fool around with my medications but I haven't felt like myself in about five months. Three days ago I posted a photo on my Instagram account about recovery and thought a quote about recovery would be a good addition. The quote I found was by Diriye Osman and the last sentence connected with me:
"…I TOOK EVERY TRAUMATIC ELEMENT OF MY CONDITION AND CHANNELED IT INTO SOMETHING USEFUL."
When I read this quote I thought about my life and if there was a way to transform my negative depressive thoughts about bipolar into thoughts that applied usefulness to the challenges that bipolar symptoms present in our lives. When I have a bad episode my sister always reminds me of three things that I need to always remember to: 1. Smile 2. Be Social 3. Be you and these three words to live by inspired me to come up with my own for bipolar.
It is called HOPE.
Once in a while I will ruminate about what my life was like before my diagnosis. Even though my life was somewhat fantasized and in the end ruled by my thoughts and bipolar symptoms, I sometimes think about what life would be like without my diagnosis. This is where HONESTY comes into the picture. Sure, we could go all day ruminating over the fact that we have something that people call a mental illness, and that our friends and family may not understand our journey, but we have to be honest with ourselves as well as the rest of society. Bipolar is a reality to many and even though it is not the happiest of truths to some, we have a diagnosis and we have to live with it, but we are not alone.
Openness and Optimism
I wanted originally to have "O" as OPTIMIST but sometimes being positive all the time in my experience is exhausting, so I decided to include openness as well. Optimism goes hand and hand with openness because while being positive we also have to be honest about what we are feeling, whether it is depression, racing thoughts, voices, or other symptoms that a mental health condition can exhibit. I have found myself uncomfortable with talking about my episodes to my therapists and to people that love me like my family and certain friends. We are not at all entitled to be open about sharing our story or experience with bipolar disorder but being open about our struggles and the potential we all have in life is a must.
Has someone ever said to you, 'I know you have so much potential, you just don't see it right now'? If you are like me, hearing that made you want to punch them in the face. Potential is a word that I have grown to love, but it still leaves me with an unexplained feeling of emptiness. It is because potential is talking about what will happen to us in the future. When I am in a bad depressive episode or a manic episode the future simply seems too complicated and scary for me to think about. How can I have potential when I can't think straight and these racing thoughts keep coming back into my life?
Just like anything in life, having bipolar is an experience that will always be a work in progress. Sometimes when I am talking to someone with a huge heart about bipolar, he/she will recognize my bravery for writing about my story and then say 'but for you, you will just have to work harder than the rest of us to achieve confidence in life, and that is very inspiring'.
At the end of the day we have the same potential as the rest of the world population. Bipolar gives us potential to see the world differently, and that is a blessing to all of us.
I found during this depressive episode that I needed something to be excited about at the end of the week. It was crucial this 'something' was at the end of the week to keep me motivated during the week. When I was in a deep depression I experienced extreme worthlessness, many days I felt numb and didn’t want to get out of bed. I would pick something like seeing my sister, who I never get to see. This would always make me work harder during each day to feel better so that I could have fun with her. If I was having a bad day at school I would close my eyes, ask my professor if I could step outside and take a breather, and find something to get excited about, even if it was telling myself if I got through the class that I survived another small depressive episode and it would make me feel better.
Excitement does not always have to mean being excited about a birthday, seeing girlfriends or guy friends, or excitement for work to be over. I have found that many doors have opened for me because I have found time to do things that I have always wanted to do. When I was little I wanted to be a writer but I also wanted to be a psychologist and work with kids in foster care. I went to school for psychology and social work because people told me I would go farther in that than writing. Bipolar gave me an excuse to write because while I was embarrassed to talk about bipolar, writing let all of my feelings out. Bipolar gives us time and I think many spend time bathing in thoughts that tend to get us nowhere. We have to be excited about the future and the life that bipolar has given back to us without us even knowing it.