Tag Archives: Being Normal

Living with bipolar traits is my normal life. Part 2

This is a continuation from the last post:

I believe it is possible to turn my bipolar traits to my advantage.  I don’t believe it is to my advantage to be ‘healed’ and made ‘normal’.  I have never known anything different from swinging on my own swing,  leading me to the high and the low places.  The fact that it is considered disordered,  has been decided by other people who didn’t consult me.

That is why I like Tom Wootton’s approach so much:  getting your bipolar in order   and using your bipolar in order to your advantage.  Go check out his website!!

In some quirky way I am actually starting to like the fact that I am able to experience higher highs and lower lows.  All because I am learning how to deal with my bipolar traits and am experiencing that living life to my fullest is still possible.  Ánd not the least,  because I am learning to accept ME the way I am.  It is OK to be ME.  This is still in process,  I haste to add,  but WOW the little accepting I’ve managed to do already makes a huge difference!

With the trip to Ukraine my experience has widened and I am much more positive that I can function and fulfil the dreams I have.  Maybe not in the same way as before,  but does that really matter?  I know I will have to really take care of myself.  But is that really a bad thing?  I know I can not do things on the spur of the moment as I can not do any thru-the-night traveling anymore.  But hey,  I can live with that,  it will only take a little more planning.  I will have to adapt the way I used to live life,  but I don’t see it as such a burden anymore.  It is becoming much more like a challenge that I know with the help of others I can achieve.

In Holland we have a saying:  “every house has its cross to bear”.  If this is my cross,  I’ll bear it;  sometimes gladly,  sometimes with grunts.  Does that matter?  Maybe I will finally learn that being on the way is just as important as achieving the goal,  now that I am forced to think carefully about how to travel! 🙂

Does this mean that I don’t struggle with ‘having bipolar disorder’?  Heck, no!  Of course I have suffered from it a great deal.  But I have chosen to not allow my past,  present or future sufferings decide how I am to live my life today. 

Will there be times when I hate that my brain functions the way it does?  Of course!  I know it can play havoc with plans I make.  Will there be times when I will feel sick of it all?  Sure!  But I don’t want it to define who I am or will be.  Thankfully,  there is so much more than this so-called disease. 

Will I chuck my meds because I don’t consider myself sick?  HECK NO!  That would be the most stupid thing to do.  I will continue to work out ways with my support network to function to the best of my ability.  This includes meds,  maybe for always,  maybe not.  For me,  that is not the issue.  The issue is my quality of life and fulfilling my dreams.  If that takes doctors,  meds,  support network, etc. so be it.

But just as I disliked greatly to be considered a victim of sexual abuse,  I dislike greatly to be considered suffering from a (mental) disease or disorder.  I am a survivor of sexual abuse,  it doesn’t define who I am either.  It only tells you what I have experienced.  Just as having Bipolar Traits tells you that I experience higher highs and lower lows.  But that doesn’t necessarily make me sick by default.

Of course,  when I was still suffering from Bipolar Disorder,  I couldn’t see beyond the crisis I was in.  Which is completely normal.  BUT,  I don’t need to stay there,  in crisis,  nor ‘in remission’ being afraid for the next possible episode and/or crisis.  As Tom Wootton and many others have shown,  there is still a whole life out there to be  discovered.  At the moment,  I am eager to explore!!!

DISCLAIMER
I don’t pretend to know anything about your Bipolar Disorder.  At best I can relate.  And I want to,  very much so.  Because I do believe we can be there for each other,  we can learn from one another and last but not least encourage one another.  In any case,  that is my desire.  What is yours?

Related posts: Living with bipolar traits is my normal life.  And no, I am not sick or disordered, thank you very much!
                            Are you ‘normal’?
                            Book review: “Bipolar in Order” by Tom Wootton

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Living with bipolar traits is my normal life. And no, I am not sick or disordered, thank you very much!

One of the hardest things I find myself dealing with on a daily basis, is figuring out why I feel the way I feel.  The answer to this question is important,  because it decides how I will deal with myself and my emotions. 

The problem is:  it is so damn hard to distinguish if I feel as I do because of my brain chemistry,  or because there was a trigger.  In other words: are the chemicals in my brain misfiring and making me feel depressed / manic without any other reason than the fact that is the way my brain is working? 

It is important for me to know the answer as that will cause me to treat myself differently,  depending on the reason why I feel the way I do. 

Say,  if it is my brain chemistry making me feel yucky and depressed,  I will try to ignore the tug to stay in bed,  do nothing and hibernate.  I might not be able to accomplish much,  but I still will try to function to the best of my ability and try to be happy with anything I will be able to accomplish that day.

However,  if something triggered my depression,  then I will have to figure out what exactly  the trigger consists of.  Is it a thought I had that made me sad and pulled me down?  Is it a certain smell that brought bad memories to the surface?  Did somebody say something to me that caused me to start thinking negatively about myself?  Is it because I made an assumption based on a situation, a response, or a lack thereof?  Is it some past trauma that is rearing its ugly head? What is IT?  Sometimes I simply don’t know.  But once I know what the IT is,  I have to deal with IT. 

If there is a good reason to feel low / depressed,  I might give myself a break.  For instance,  right now after returning from my 3,5 week trip to Ukraine I have so many impressions to process.  I am in touch with my key people,  but other than that I keep a low profile and take a lot of rest.  Which means I sleep a lot even during the day.  But that is okay.  For now.  But next week I will pick up my active life,  if I feel like it or not.

Why is it so important to find the answer to the question?  Because if I let  my feelings go,  I might end up in a depressive state that will pull me deeper and deeper,  which might happen slowly or very fast.  Or the opposite might happen,  and I end up being (hypo)manic and maybe even paranoid.  Either state can,  once it is full-blown,  last for months and it will take hard work plus usually additional meds to get out of it.  Neither is to be desired.

That is one big reason of why I am in counseling:  to learn how to deal with all those IT’s that fill my life (un)aware.  IT’s can be so sneaky and creep up on you when you are not looking.  Even when I know what IT is playing it’s part,  I still need to work out how to respond.  Which is different depending on the reason behind IT.

You see,  I refuse to be a victim of this so-called ‘illness’.  I AM NOT!  This is the way I was born,  the way I have been made,  and it is okay.  I want to add a BIG note,  though,  that it has taken me quite a while (years) to come to accept the fact that I am labeled as “suffering from Bipolar Disorder”.  I rebel against being labeled “mentally ill”.  I hate the fact that this label causes me trouble being insured for health and for when I die (because of the chances I might end up in hospital and the higher chances of suicide).

I want to scream from the roof top: I AM ONLY DIFFERENT,  I AM NOT ILL, DISABLED  OR DISORDERED!!! 

Yes,  there will be times when I won’t be able to handle my bipolar traits very well.  So what?  Yes,  I need some close people around me to help me deal with the fall out of my bipolar traits.  So what?  Yes,  there will be times I will talk your head off.  So what?  Yes,  there will be times I will hibernate and be invisible.  So what?  Yes,  my brain functions different from yours and apparently I deal differently with emotions.  So what?

I don’t know any better,  for me it is normal,  it’s just the way I am.  SO WHAT?!?

To be continued!!!

Related post: Are you ‘normal’?

Picture courtesy of: The Franklin Institute

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Are you 'normal' ?

While reading one of my favorite authors I came across a conversation between father and daughter about ‘normal’ and what it means.  Since my mind was already switched on in that direction,  I took special note.  Because what on earth does ‘normal’ mean?

So I decided to look the word up in a couple of places:

According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal )  ,  ‘normal’ may refer to:

  • Normality (behavior), conformance to an average
  • Norm (sociology), social norms, expected patterns of behavior studied within the context of sociology.

 The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines normal / abnormal as follows  ( http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/ ) :

  • Normal:  ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected.
  • Abnormal:  different from what is usual or average, especially in a way that is bad.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary ) says:

 Normal is:

  •  one that is normal.
  •  a form or state regarded as the norm.

 Abnormal is:

  • deviating from the normal or average  

 So the meaning of the word ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ depends on a couple of things.  It is closely related to average and to expectations.  Take a bunch of people and ask them what they consider for instance normal behavior,  shake it together and voila,  here is your average meaning.  It is how they expect people to generally behave. 

Everyone outside of these expectations is considered ‘abnormally behaved’.  However,  to become ‘normal’,  one has simply to conform to the standard of the group.  Than you become the same as anyone else. 

Why is  being / behaving normal so important?  Well,  we find the answer in the Cambridge Dictionary:  abnormal is considered bad!  I don’t like the Cambridge Dictionary.  It doesn’t just explain the word abnormal,  it stamps a value judgement on it by saying it is bad.  Now,  that is what I consider rude 😦 

Initially,  I like the way the Merriam-Webster Dictionary approaches the meaning of both words.  Abnormal may stray from the norm,  but that isn’t necessarily bad.  It just is.

BUT the catch with the M-W Dictionary is this: normal (adjective) #4 says:  free from mental disorder (as in SANE).  Right.  Nice.  Thank you very much.  You call me ‘abnormal’ then,  I guess?  Or maybe:  insane?  Not in my right mind?  An aberration?  This is worse than rude!

Now on to the quote from a book of Elizabeth George called ‘In pursuit of the proper sinner’  (New York,  Bantam Books, 2000),  page 648:

  “ An aberration to you might be perfectly normal to someone else.  In fact,  you might be the aberration in their eyes”,  Nicola said.

He supposed this was the case,  he admitted.  But wasn’t normality determined by the numbers?  Wasn’t that what the word norm meant in the first place?  Wasn’t the norm decided by what the most people did?

“That would make cannibalism normal,  Dad,  among cannibals.”

“Among cannibals,  I suppose it is.”

“And if a group among the cannibals decides it doesn’t like eating human flesh,  are they abnormal?  Or can we say they have tastes that might have undergone a change?  And if someone from our society goes out and joins the cannibals and discovers he has a taste for human flesh that he wasn’t aware he had,  is he abnormal?  And to whom?”

 And to whom,  indeed!  According to the dictionary we,  BD’s,  are not normal.  Because we have a Disordered mind causing our moods to swing well beyond the so-called ‘normal’ or average range.  We might be the aberration.  Outside the norm.  But you know what?  I wouldn’t want to be anyone else,  normal or not!.

Do you remember when you were a child and you visited your friend’s houses?  They did things different,  which as a child we labeled ‘not normal’.  Why?  Because we considered how we do things at home as normal.  That is what we are used to and that becomes the norm.

It was only when I was prescribed sleeping aids that I really recognized that what meant ‘sleeping’ for me,  was not the same as for the average person.  I always could hear my thoughts.  They never stopped,  kept on going 24/7.  That was normal for me,  I’d never known anything else.  But with the sleeping meds I started sleeping as the average person,  boy, what an experience that was!

So I ask again: what on earth IS normal?

I believe each of us is unique.  We are created by a God who is endlessly creative.  Just think about all the people who have ever lived in history,  are alive now and will live in the future.  Each and everyone were, are and will be unique human beings.  Isn’t that fantabulous???  Who wants to be ‘normal’ ?  Or ‘average’ ?

I want to be exceptional,  atypical,  especial,  exceeding,  extraordinaire,  extraordinary,   phenomenal,  rare,  singular, uncommon,  unique, unusual.  Don’t you? 

But beware,  because if you do,  those are all (positive) synonyms of that one word:  ABNORMAL !!!   🙂  🙂  🙂

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