One of life’s great lessons is to accept, master, and ultimately enjoy that which cannot be avoided. Chances are you already know that bipolar disorder is incurable, however, there is a vast spectrum of experience in between being a victim of the illness and living a full, productive, and happy life that includes it.
Over the four decades since my first manic episode I have gone from one extreme to the other. It is not my intention to underestimate or romanticize this rude adversary. I’ve done loony bin factory time, engaged in all manner of reckless behavior, and rebuilt my ruined life over and over again. It’s a wonder I’m here at all.
That said, let me urge you to hold on tight to this one bit of advice while trudging through the foreign and forbidding landscapes – embrace your bipolar bear and take it dancing.
The epigraph for my bipolar memoir, INVISIBLE DRIVING, is by Rainer Marie Rilke.
“Perhaps everything that is terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
Only through dealing with the illness did I come to understand myself and lose my fear of life. Learning why I was susceptible caused me to evolve in ways I never would have otherwise. Bipolar disorder has given me far more than it ever took; because of it I achieved the peace of mind and gratitude I enjoy today.
If you are new to the illness your instinct will be to deny and forget it – don’t.
If you are new to recovery you may think you are “cured” and stop taking your meds – don’t.
If you are early in therapy and meeting the demons responsible for your manic episodes you will want to turn away – don’t.
If you feel stigma, if you feel “less than” because of the broken genes you carry – don’t.
The problem you refuse to face is the problem that will continually present itself until you do. Bipolar disorder is not a cute little foe; it is a monster you must not battle alone. Embrace it; let it teach you and guide you to places so called normal folk cannot spell, much less imagine. Befriend your bipolar bear, it is part of you, embrace it and take it dancing.