I keep hearing the word acceptance when it comes to living with bipolar. But what exactly does it mean to me?
A doctor once told me acceptance means acknowledging a fact, but not necessarily being “ok” with it. I was uncertain so I looked it up.
Acceptance is defined as “a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.”
It all sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But I think reaching true acceptance is far from it.
I vaguely remember the weeks in which I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder because I was hospitalised at the time. My reaction was simple; I rejected the diagnosis and immediately denied that what the doctor was saying had any truth to it.
My Doc had observed me as an outpatient for some years and then as an inpatient on a daily basis over the course of many months. He stood by his diagnosis while I continued to reject it.
While I was hospitalised my doctor also told me that these episodes I was experiencing would more than likely keep occurring. Once again I did not want to acknowledge that fact, and my mind still cried out for an alternate explanation.
For months, each time the word “bipolar” was used I became annoyed and irritated because I did not want any part in it. I recall saying “I don’t want this” both out loud and to myself, and I fought the idea black and blue.
These days I now understand that bipolar disorder is a chronic illness to be managed, not cured.
I have yet been able to fully grasp the implications for me in my life, and although I am on the road to acceptance, I still have days where I fight with myself about my diagnosis.
There have also been times when I thought bipolar was an illness that would simply go away with the right medication. The “magic pill” as some may refer to it.
The reality for me is that although medication is an important part of my bipolar maintenance, it merely lessens the severity of my mood swings which allows for me to cope a little better. The other reality regarding medication is that no pill or combination of pills has been a cure all. I think, perhaps, that this is true for many chronic conditions, not necessarily just psychiatric illnesses.
So what happened after my original diagnosis? How am I travelling with accepting my condition? Today’s answer: Better than before, I think…
Though if I’m honest, there are still some days I get so frustrated that I could literally scream out loud.
But over time and endless highs and lows I have learned a great deal about having bipolar, and I continue to learn more each day. There is a wealth of information available out there, and I have a small network of friends who have the same condition. They’ve taught me so much about recognising where I’m at on the emotional spectrum and sometimes they give me a kick up the bum to take action where I cannot see that it is needed. This handful of people I trust in this sense and having them in my life makes having bipolar less isolating.
I’ve also worked out that if I am to live my life, then there are some other people such as loved ones and close friends who need to know what I am dealing with. Educating them with information on living with bipolar has been really helpful, and I am very lucky to have some great friends who accept me as I am.
Blogging for IBPF.org is also a new way for me to share my thoughts with others. Some loved ones have already read my first blog and understand my condition a little bit better.
At the moment I have been having a particularly hard time of it, especially with mixed episodes. I tend to swing between isolating depression and manic freak outs. But just yesterday my sister-in-law quoted me with my own words from my first blog. She said, “Go back to the basics; go back to your daily list of to-dos”.
She is right, I have to be strict with myself and fight my way through. And even if my list seems ridiculously basic, I need to follow it for it does work for me when I do. It is so easy to get lost in my bipolar world, and she threw me an anchor.
So I guess moving towards acceptance for me has meant changing the way I look at just about everything in my life through bipolar eyes. There have been sacrifices I have mourned which have been hard to come to terms with. There will be more to come, and that is where the need for acceptance comes in.
Looking at things from this new perspective always reminds me of one of my favourite quotes. It’s an old one, and it speaks to me of a graceful type of acceptance I long to know.
It is beautiful in its simplicity and I think it is going up on the fridge next to my to-do list.
It is an extract from “The Faerie Queen” by Edmund Spenser and reads quite simply:
“For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
Read more of Nic's posts here.