All right, even though it has taken much longer than I expected, let’s get back to the post Can bipolar disorder be cured? and the question I finished with:
Would you allow me to suggest that there is a possibility to get your disorder ‘in order’?
Today I like to begin answering the question with offering the following musings.
There is more
My ‘problem’ is that I am a fighter. I simply can’t accept a diminished life because somebody else tells me so. Nor can I accept that I will be on meds the rest of my life because a pdoc says so. Even so I am realistic. Of course bipolar in its disordered form has cost me much. And most likely there will be times where it will cost me still. But I don’t want to dwell there.
Because I believe there is so much more to my and your life. So.much.more.
You see, to reach real stability is not to be ‘in remission of symptoms’ , or be afraid when the next episode will roar its ugly head. It is not avoiding any stressor, trigger, or situation that might possibly set off an episode. It is not responding on autopilot to whatever happens.
I want you to look further than these types of statements and challenge your view of yourself and the way you function:
Simply living with this illness is a major achievement, so give yourself credit.
Stress is toxic to anyone with a mood disorder, so every effort needs to be made to reduce stressful situations.
Since bipolar disorder is a brain malfunction, there is not much you can do about it.
For me, I much rather put all my energy in living my life, than trying to avoid stress, avoid possible triggers or being afraid for the other shoe to drop. Because be not mistaken: to avoid all these things takes a lot of energy that can be used differently in a way that builds you up and makes you stronger.
Don’t get me wrong: I do know first hand how debilitating the illness can be. I do not take it lightly. I can’t. It has cost me way too much. In months and years spent in deep depression. In being suicidal. In my hypomania getting out of control. I totally recognize the seriousness of those times. But I don’t wanna get stuck there. I want to move on.
Which requires study.
Become a student
You need to become a student of your own disorder. You need to know absolutely everything about it. What are your triggers? What are the signs of your different types of mood? How does sleep or lack thereof influence your mood? How do you respond to stress? What happens when you have a row with your partner, children, family, or friend? What helps you to deflect depression? What are the signs your hypomania is getting out of control? What action do you need to take to come down from hypomania? Have you build a good working relationship with your mental health professionals? Are you an active participant in your own treatment? Do you work hard in your talk-therapy to get the most out of your life?
In time you become an A+ student and your reward is the ability to recognize your condition, to stand back and have the freedom to choose how you respond based on what you have learned about yourself and your bipolar disorder. You will no longer be the victim of an illness that you feel you can’t control. In time you will react differently to the same situation in comparison to the past.
What is the challenge?
Because really, the challenge is not to ‘survive’ your illness, but to function no matter what situation you get into, no matter what stress throws at you or which triggers you encounter.
That is why I believe that it doesn’t really matter what the cause of bipolar disorder is, as long as you change the pile of jigsaw pieces into your own beautiful picture of your life lived to the fullest. Through your studying, you begin to get the disordered heap sorted out. Yes, it is a huge pile. Yes, it takes a while. Yes, frustration is part of it. But oh, it is so worthwhile, especially when you see a glimpse of what is to be!
That said, I have nothing against researchers finding the gen responsible for bipolar disorder and consequently finding a cure. But I, for one, am not going to wait and waste my time for science to catch up with my life. Are you?