Author: Angela McCrimmon
I have often reflected on the question “If someone could completely cure me of bipolar disorder tomorrow, would I accept the treatment?” Anyone who is reading this in the middle of a depressive episode will believe with all their heart that they’d give anything to be free of low mood and everything that comes with it. Is my own depression debilitating when it comes? Painfully so. Does mania leave me in a state of agitation, irritability and often embarrassed about my behaviour when I balance back out? Absolutely. The problem it seems, is that little window in-between the two I have come to know as hypomania. There have been times I could practically visualise the rope between myself and my doctor as they pull one way in altering medications because they know I am only one step away from entering a state that can cause me damage…and I want to pull the other so I can hang onto my hypomania for just a little bit longer.
I cringe as I recall my last hypomanic episode where I literally tried to negotiate with the doctor on a Monday that she MUST just give me until the Friday so I could get my idea for a Worldwide Campaign off the ground. I enthusiastically explained I had a mountain of letters to write, including to Buckingham Palace and the UK Prime Minister because I was certain they’d want to be involved in my idea. She patiently listened to my grandiose ideas as I barely took a breath in my excited monologue but I felt her understanding as I promised I would engage with her on the Friday and that I’d comply with her treatment plan even though part of me resented that she wanted to take this magical euphoria away from me. Couldn’t she see that it was in these times I have done some of the most amazing things in my life?
I used to find myself in a place of non-acceptance and denial about having bipolar disorder. It took me a very long time to accept I’d have to take medication for the rest of my life and that from now on my prognosis was about “management” not “cure.” I have spent years cursing the illness and for all that it’s stolen from me over the 25 years I’ve experienced it. My beloved music career…gone. My ability to believe I would ever be capable of functioning in a stable, healthy relationship…gone. The possibility of that relationship bringing children into the world for me to love…gone. My expectation that I would contribute to society with some long and fulfilling career….gone. Bipolar has taken away so many things that took me a long time to accept. However, it has also given me moments and memories that have touched my life in an incredibly special way. I’m an eternal optimist so long as I’m not lacking in serotonin transmitters and I found myself creating a gratitude list for the things I would actually like to thank this life-altering illness for. Things that I fully believe my hypomania has been an incredible catalyst towards and highs that I find myself contemplating that they might just be worth enduring the lows for.
Thank you bipolar for the creativity you overwhelm me with when I’m hypomanic. I have pictures flash into my mind, words and ideas find their way into poetry that is often published worldwide. You give me the confidence to share my words with others that in a lower state I would question and overthink how people might judge my thoughts and emotions.
Thank you bipolar for the extra hours you give me when the rest of the world is fast asleep. I often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day but when you keep me awake with reduced need for sleep I am so productive and focused, obsessed even.
Thank you bipolar for the social connections I make that I wouldn’t usually have the confidence to engage in. You help me make friends easily and I find everyone so fascinating and intriguing.
Thank you bipolar for the periods I have when I don’t carry around the shame of Imposter Syndrome every day of my life. You make me feel like I am more than enough and that’s not a feeling I have the comfort of in more stable episodes in my life. Normally I feel utterly inadequate around health professionals….Hypomania makes me fully believe I am as competent as they are, if not more.
Thank you bipolar for the amazing experiences I have when you make me so unpredictably spontaneous. I usually live my life in a strict structure and routine….follow my plan to the utmost degree and suffer severe anxiety if anything throws it off. When you come to visit I absolutely live in the moment and I’m fueled with adrenaline as I navigate my day with no warning of what idea you might come up with next.
Bipolar brings a lot of challenges to my life and I can’t deny some of the darkest things I’ve ever had to face. However, right now I choose to focus on the parts of it I’m actually grateful for. The parts that make me grateful to experience the world in such a beautiful and exciting way. If only the doctor could prescribe a period of hypomania that wasn’t a prelude to a more severe episode, I would be first in the queue to get my medicine. I have a lot that I could resent bipolar for but today I choose to say thank you. Thank you bipolar for giving me the most amazing and extraordinary life than I could ever have created on my own.