How Bipolar Disorder Has Prepared Me for Unpredictability

Author: Christina Chambers

Lately, I have noticed a pattern emerging and re-emerging. It weaves itself through my life like vines climbing a lattice. That pattern is chaos. There is a consistent inconsistency, predictable unpredictability, and almost an order to the disorderly nature of its occurrence. The one thing I can count on lately is tumultuous change. The world at large – the pandemic, political climates, and our global environment – is brimming with chaotic unpredictability. These are times when the veneer of control is peeling. Our tendency to put what we know into labels and binary categories, and those neatly tucked rigid ideas of life that bolster our sense of control seem to be no longer serving us. There has long been an overarching theme of humanity attempting to face life’s natural chaos by trying to package it into tightly wrapped containers, complete with label-maker stickers determining what each container holds and dividing it from the rest. With all of the drastic changes, this is becoming a more obviously futile endeavour. Many of us are having to try new ways of approaching life’s changes, and creative ways of adapting to its chaos. Underneath the global impacts, on an individual level, I am facing a number of life-altering physical health challenges as well. Change is ever present, perhaps more so than ever before.

As I reflected on, and worked to adapt to all these shifts, it occurred to me that Bipolar Disorder has prepared me for unpredictability. As the second wave of the pandemic crashed upon us, and my physical health wavered, I was flooded with overwhelm that pulled me into the early stages of a Bipolar episode. I was reminded that this disorder never takes a break. I had this sense of grasping at a mountain of straws, and I felt like I was just waiting for the last one. Then, as I always have, I put my wellness strategies into action, albeit perhaps somewhat begrudgingly. Among them, I accessed my supports, reinforced my routines, upped my self-care, added play into each day, and got creative with altering my perspectives around the rocky circumstances.

As I began to improve, it became obvious how Bipolar Disorder has prepared me for erratic change. For years I lived with mood disorder symptoms that were often unexpected, seemingly unpredictable, and largely out of my control. This illness brought drastic change into my life over and over. In order to survive, I needed to acquire new abilities. I developed creativity with adapting to big changes, and I grew the capacity to see order within the disorder. I learned to distinguish degrees of control, and to find areas of grey that offered elements of manageability. I practiced differentiating what was within my control, what was within partial control and what was out of my control, and worked on continually shifting focus to influencing what was within my control. I realized that this disorder has sparked the growth of widely applicable resourcefulness. Living with Bipolar Disorder has kindled countless new ways of approaching life. Lately, the internal and external resources I have cultivated over the years have been helping me face my physical health challenges and the greater hardships of the world at large.

I believe anyone living with this disorder has a wealth of resources they can draw on. Whether consciously realized or not, being here alive today, means that they have survived. Surviving with Bipolar Disorder takes skills – skills that can be drawn on and extrapolated to any surreal or life altering changes that arise. With the awareness of one’s resources a beautiful thing happens: the unpredictable becomes manageable and the mountain of seemingly chaotic straws becomes an attainable hurdle to surpass.

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