I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few months after turning 18 years old in 2003. While that seems so long ago, one would think 10 years is enough time to figure out how to perfectly manage my illness and life. The truth of the matter is, I am still learning and the things I have learned up to this point in my life, I have learned the hard way.
A recent example is my struggle with addiction. I always knew I had an impulsive nature and I become addicted to things very easily. It is why I had to be very cautious when I was symptomatic. However, even though I knew this, I always thought I was smarter than my “addictions”. Essentially though, my “addictions” were and will always be smarter than me. This lesson I had to keep learning the hard way. My recent struggle which I never thought I would engage in was misusing prescription medication. The medication was prescribed to help my bipolar disorder, severe state of depression, anxiety, and agitation. Even though I was hesitant to take it because I knew my substance abuse issues were active because I was very symptomatic, I told myself I was more powerful than my addictions. This was false, and I again learned another lesson the hard way. The lesson though this time was beyond powerful for me. I learned:
“Addiction for me of any kind is deadly game. It is deadly because I don’t just become addicted; I become addicted fast and hard. It invades my thoughts like the plague. It influences my behavior like that of a long time addict even though it has only a day. It hides in the night allowing me to think I have won, only to wait for a moment of weakness to return even uglier than before smashing any stability I have gained. It is a part of my mental illness in that my addictions have helped me cope with my illness and with life itself. However, like any double edged sword, it is counteractive to my recovery process and functioning every day in life.”
Whether my addictions came first or my symptoms of mental illness; I would have to say my symptoms came first and my addictions came from my attempts to cope. Some would agree with me, and some would argue the other way around. The argument, I think is not of importance when compared to actively treating and managing my mental illnesses and my addictions; taking care of myself daily; and healing the underlying issues through having a willingness to be open, honest, and to accept a helping hand to the best of my ability each day. Each day I also hope through my sharing of my experiences and lessons learned, it might help someone else because as I am reminded “you don’t have to stay on the same train ride as I took, you can chose to jump off at any time and take a train that is less of a rollercoaster ride combined with a full moon”