By: Sophie Prosolek
Self-discovery is an important part of learning to be an individual, but in my opinion it’s all the more important when that individual has Bipolar disorder.
Bipolar, in its many guises, can be a really two-faced friend; it occasionally allows you to feel an incredible sense of self, and then rips it all away in the blink of an eye, leaving you wondering “where do I begin, and where does the illness start?”. It can be extremely difficult to identify a feeling of true self-discovery, when mania feels so awakening and depression feels so consuming. For this reason, many people view Bipolar as a disease of two halves: the manic and the depressed. However it wasn’t until I discovered the third piece of my Bipolar puzzle that I could truly reflect upon myself as a whole and achieve some level of self-discovery.
I like to view my Bipolar self in thirds: the [hypo]manic, the depressed, and the aware. The [hypo]manic (who definitely believes they’re capable of everything) cannot be an honest reflection of myself, because at this time, my actions and thoughts are not filtered by my personality; for example, “I know the cure for cancer” has very little value if one has no real interest or background in science or healthcare. Of course, this is how I know that my [hypo]manic sense of ‘awakendness’ is not a real reflection of self-discovery. The depressed (who has undoubtedly come to realize that they’re worthless) feels unable to partake in the normal hobbies and interests, or even conversations which constitute my usual choice of pastime; as this is also clearly not filtered by my personality, it too cannot be a considered real conduit to self-discovery. The ‘aware’ however, recognizes both the manic and the depressed and feels comparatively unrevealing, despite the fact that this is exactly when I learn the most about myself.
When I’m my ‘aware’ self I’m able to let my personality lead my actions and this allows me to explore self-discovery. Whilst I’ve been ‘well’ (ie. within the last year really) I’ve taken up a number of new hobbies as a conscious exploration into my sense of self – something I couldn’t have done a year prior.
For a long time I rejected my ‘aware’ self, believing that it was a ‘dumbed-down’ version of hypomania. I either believed that hypomania had awakened me to a higher reality, or that depression had revealed my unforgivable flaws. It took and awful lot of hurt (and admittedly an awful lot more medication) to bring me back to my ‘aware’ self, allowing me to ask “who am I?”
So whilst my Bipolar can be considered a disease of two halves, I am definitely a Bipolar individual of thirds. Without a doubt, my advice to anyone who is holding on to self-discovery though mania is this: don’t let the illness fool you, you are more than your extremes; abstract yourself from your halves if at all possible, and you will see things you didn’t realize were within you. I believe that a wonderful sense of identity exists within recovery and that it’s only once an individual has found their ‘aware’ self can they truly able to embark upon a journey of self-discovery – this might seem an obvious point to make, and if it does, you may be more ‘well’ than you realize.