In celebration of World Bipolar Day on March 30, I want people to know that I do not see this mental illness as a disability — it is my superpower!
So many see a bipolar disorder diagnosis as a frightening and negative experience that may hold us back from achieving what we desire in our lives. When I was first diagnosed in 2006, I did too. Managing this illness for sixteen years I know we do face many challenges and risks, but want to pause and celebrate all the gifts that come along with our diagnosis.
I agree with Amanda, our brains are our superpower. I read her advice for the newly diagnosed the same day I began to write this blog. It was exciting to see another bipolar community member aligned with the perception I’ve believed for years. Once we are stabilized to reach functional recovery of our most debilitating symptoms, bipolar disorder serves us by making us more social, ambitious, creative, and recognition seeking. These qualities apply to my personality, they shaped me and benefited me in my personal and professional life.
In the abstract published by Molecular Neuropsychiatry, Positive Traits in the Bipolar Spectrum: The Space between Madness and Genius the psychiatric experts explain their research and describe how:
“Personality factors, such as increased sociability, strong ambition, and a desire for recognition by others, characterize those who excel because of their creative talent and are features observed in bipolar patients and their relatives, which may partially explain the tighter link of bipolar disorder to creativity…”
I have found increased sociability in my interaction with everyone. My partner, Tony, frequently tells me I talk too much with the grocery store cashiers, servers at restaurants, and others we come into regular contact with during the course of our day. I believe I genuinely care more about people after experiencing such traumatic mental health challenges in my life. I feel more deeply connected to others and propelled to reach out, especially if they don’t seem content — I desire to lighten their load and be a source of joy in their day.
Perhaps the powerful range of emotions I experienced through my depressive and manic episodes helps to fuel my ability to relate to those around me. I am grateful for the wide range of emotions I have felt in my life. This spectrum of feelings makes it easier for me to see when others are struggling, empathize, and engage with them. My experiences also allow me to offer advice based on what worked for me, if they are open to receiving my suggestions.
My ambition has always been strong. From graduating in the top ten percent of my high school class to completing my first degree with a 4.0 GPA and becoming a homeowner at twenty years old, I have always pushed myself a lot harder than many others around me. My mind’s ability to hyperfocus drives me to work hard toward the achievement of ambitious goals.
My strong ambition is directly related to my bipolar disorder. It means once I reach a goal I continue to look forward, seeking to identify the next level of achievement to focus on. Once a milestone is identified my ambition pushes me forward despite obstacles, setbacks, and competing priorities — my ambition feeds the internal energy I need to excel. In some ways this means I am never satisfied. The joy of achieving new goals never goes away. There is so much to learn and accomplish in this life — I mostly worry I won’t have time for it all!
Creative genius is a part of my bipolar benefits too. Though, I’m not sure if I fall into the 8% of us on the bipolar spectrum considered to be highly creative. I am frequently identified as creative by others. In my professional life, I use creativity to develop new business processes and find solutions others might not think to innovate. On the home front, my creativity feeds the way I style my hair, paint my nails, and apply my makeup. I creatively plate our food for dinner, decorate cakes, plan parties and events like birthdays, Halloween, and New Years. I am constantly thinking about how to creatively make things prettier, more colorful and fun!
I have sought out recognition since early grade school. I won my first art contest prior to sixth grade. Approval from others who acknowledge my good work is a strong motivator to please people and do a great job. Perhaps it was my desire to win my family’s approval and restore Tony’s belief in me that provided the motivation to work hard to reach functional recovery after my struggle with mania and depression.
I recently discussed my fear of remission with my psychiatrist. I was encouraged when he related it to an addict or alcoholic who has recovered. Like them, I now have new skills and tools at my disposal. The experiences I have been through set me up to battle any potential relapse differently with greater chances for success and wellness. His certainty reassured me that I am stronger, smarter, and more well-equipped to manage any severe mood swings in my future. The honest conversation with him was a brilliant source of confidence and calm to help me continue to shine bright despite mental health challenges.
Read more about Factors Associated with Functional Recovery in Bipolar Disorder Patients from the US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. May this research give you hope on your journey to wellness.
Dayna was 27 years old when she first experienced a two year spiral of mixed manic and depressive episodes, including six inpatient hospitalizations, a suicide attempt, and the threat of a three year commitment if she did not become medically compliant. Today, Dayna maintains a close relationship with her psychiatrist and is thriving in her career and home life with the help of prescribed medications. Dayna lives in the Washington, DC metro area with her partner of 18 years. Together they share their home with two cats, Latte and Donut, and Butters, their corgi. They love to travel the world and have spent time exploring three continents and over two dozen countries.
Dayna writes about her bipolar journey and story on her website,
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