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I am bipolar, I am blessed with it, and get-it-over-with-itis

Ajax

First of all, before I take off with my diatribe, if you happen to have bipolar and you use the wording I'm about to discuss, please do not take offense. That is the very last thing I want to do in this blog. I merely wish to play devil's advocate.  I am writing this as a catharsis, which is defined as the "discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition."

What is my "condition"? Frustration at being depicted by a three-word-long sentence as my complete identity. I am bipolar.

Robert Frost stated "“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."” Three words can be powerful. Words are more influential in life's smaller moments than we realize. Three teensy words.

I can't sum up myself in three words by saying "I am bipolar", yet I honestly think that other people view me as "bipolar first, everything else second" when I tell them that I am my diagnosis. I would go so far as to assert that we subliminally affect ourselves in some way with this language style, and it's not a positive, healthy habit.  It's also not a big deal to change this pattern. I'm talking one word: use the word "have" instead of "am". It's no big deal to make the switch.

To be honest, I never cared about the simple phrase "I am bipolar" before I was diagnosed. However, now I am very careful when I tell others about myself and my condition. I make it a point to state "I have bipolar." As a writer, words are so important to me. Heck, I even wrote a song called "Words". There is so much more to me than bipolar disorder, and it makes me feel better to take charge in how I explain it to others.

Words have energy. One word can ripple the waves of your life. While Kindle-surfing I discovered a book titled "More Than Bipolar - A Memoir of Acceptance and Hope" by Lizabeth D. Schuch and I love that title!  She has the right idea.

I'll move on to the word "blessing". I bought a book years ago after I was first diagnosed called "Bipolar Blessing - A Memoir of Transilience" by P.S. Lutz and I have yet to read it. (The cover has a big, 'ol bear and it cracks me up; that alone makes me want to read it, plus it received good reviews.)

Five minutes ago I located yet another memoir in the works also entitled "Bipolar Blessing". While I am truly glad that other people with bipolar have found positivity associated with the illness, I can't bring myself to ever use the word "blessing" in relation to my having bipolar disorder. I'm not going to put pressure on myself to change my viewpoint, or beat myself up for feeling this way.

You see, I've traumatized my children and husband to such a great degree with my behavior and five lengthy hospitalizations, and I've lost such an enormous amount of time in my life that I don't see how calling this disease a blessing is helpful. It feels disingenuous. What matters most is now, anyway. I want to play catch-up and do all the activities I wanted to do over the years, such as have fun with my kids, laugh with my husband, write, maintain friendships, and much more.

Wanting to catch up in life has led to a malady of what I term get-it-over-with-itis. I prefer to spell it getitoverwithitis, which is how I view it in my head.

Getitoverwithitis is going through the motions of anything in a rush, not being present, and not appreciating any nuances of the action. Mindfulness practice will help in living in the moment. Both my therapist and my psychiatrist meditate (only in Santa Cruz!) and they keep encouraging me to start meditating, even for one minute at a time, in part to relinquish the getitoverwithitis. Meditation is a topic that deserves its own post, and I will definitely be writing about it in the future. I keep receiving signs from the universe that I need to at least give meditation a try. There is a recently published, well-reviewed book, "The Tao of Bipolar: Using Meditation and Mindfulness to Find Balance and Peace" by Dr. C. Simpkins which I plan to read this year. I'll let you know what I think of it!

Getitoverwithitis is tied into breathing. I am a longtime breath-holder. It's anxiety-related, and holding my breath keeps me from being able to pay attention to whatever I'm involved with. I think it's a control-issue and in a way I'm attempting to keep myself safe from harm. Holding my breath prevents me from living fully.  The first step in recovering from any unhealthy compulsion is to recognize its existence. After recognition, it's time to move onto recovery. I'm trying with all my might to work on this issue as it affects me every day, multiple times an hour. I'm sure it's a primary reason why I frequently say "Mommy is too tired to do that."  to my girls. Maybe someday I'll change how I view the word "blessing" in regard to bipolar disorder in my life. I won't fight that dilemma too much. But you will never hear me say "I am bipolar".  If we meet someday, I hope to be breathing more deeply and that I will pay close attention to what you are saying, instead of wondering what kind of mocha I'll be drinking in five minutes.

www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com

Comments

I'm a little paranoid today - if you don't agree with me here, be gentle. Thank you so much for reading my blog and please come back to read more! And thanks to the International Bipolar Foundation (Ashley, Muffy and Debbie) -you are making my dreams come true in pubishing my blog.

Dyane, my heart goes out to you. Keep fighting the good fight, and know YOU are *not* a diagnosis. You are a passionate human being navigating your way through a very difficult set of circumstances. Find time each day for a personal refuge/retreat. Quiet is healing.

Great post, Dyane! I agree completely. When people ask me what I do, first and foremost I am a writer. Sure, I write mostly about mental illness and a lot about my own experience with bipolar, but I am NOT my illness. It's merely a piece of me. I wrote a post about it: http://bipolarmomlife.com/kicking-bipolars-ass/

Like you, I have also learned to embrace my illness. It's my creative side and I love that about me. :)

Dyane, I'm with you about how changing a word can change your outlook. I am an Editor for a living (I manage 3 health care journals), and I've been trained to avoid describing people as their illnesses. For example, I can't say "a diabetic patient." The best way to write this is "a patient with diabetes." I'm taking a mindfulness course now, and so I'm trying to train myself to stop saying things like "I'm a mess" or "I'm sad" and instead try to not be so judgmental, saying "I feel sad" instead. Just these little changes can make a huge impact on our mood! Thanks for sharing your post!

Thank you Dyane for sharing this wisdom. I will try to use haves and has's and feels instead of ams and is's.

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