I have been staring at this page for days now. I’ve been trying to get the courage to write about something I know intimately, but have no idea how to write. So I’m just going to tell you a story.
It was a Wednesday in August, 14 years ago. I was home with our first daughter (who was about a year old at the time) and she would NOT stop crying. No matter what I did, the crying persisted. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with anger and dealing with throwing and punching things since I can remember. I know you see where this is going. Yes, it happened. I pushed my daughter down to the floor and screamed at her at the top of my lungs. She began crying even harder, but this time her cry was a terrified scream. I stepped back and the first thought that crossed my mind was “Oh my God! What have I done?”
I made sure she was ok. I tried to assure her I didn’t mean to do what I had just done. My next step was to call my wife. (She has always known something wasn’t quite right.) I told her what happened. She asked if our daughter was ok. I assured her she was. The next thing out of her mouth was “You and I are going to a doctor and fix this. This is not you and I know it.” She has been and will always be my biggest supporter.
This is where my mental health journey began. We looked for doctors. We visited with quite a few of them. All seemed to say I was just stressed. My cocktail of medications began with these visits. One after another, only to find out that nothing was working.
I then had one more trip to my last doctor. He cared enough to listen to me. Not just on one visit, but on many visits. He paid attention to my history of anger and noticed I was always more excited about small things than I probably should be. He also realized I was a bit more down on small episodes than I should be. Then there’s the mixture of my anxiety attacks. At the time, I just thought I was maybe having low sugar episodes, but I have never been diagnosed with diabetes. I would get light headed and very dizzy to the point of passing out. Nope. This was not low blood sugar I was actually having. I was experiencing anxiety attacks! The doctor started me on my current medication of Lithium and Xanax and I haven’t looked back since then. Some doctors really do care about how you feel.
After that visit, I came to know that I am bipolar. (Remember that statement.) I had no idea how to deal with this new found information about myself. My wife and I were about to find out.
Shortly after my diagnosis, my parents moved in with my wife and me. We took care of them in their elderly years until they both passed away within a year of one another. I thought I had grieved enough for my loss, but apparently I didn’t. After their deaths, I slipped into a deep depression blaming all my problems on bipolar.
Everything was because of bipolar.
I’m not happy, bipolar.
I don’t want to get out of bed, bipolar.
I even considered suicide just to stop feeling this way. (I should have told my doctor about this, but I didn’t.)
My wife never told me “You would feel better if you would just (fill in the blank.)” But she would ask “Try to move to the couch today.” She was healing me one step at a time and I didn’t even realize it.
Then one day I was talking about who knows what, but I said “I am bipolar.”
Then I heard a voice that filled every void in our house. Just as loud as close thunder. “Damn! You are not bipolar! You have bipolar! Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it!” Those words came from my wife, doing what she did best, waking me up and getting my butt moving.
From that moment on, I realized that bipolar does not define who I am. Only I can do that. Bipolar is just an illness I have that I take medication for. Just like high blood pressure. I mean really. Are you high blood pressure? Does it define who you are? Hell no! So began another journey to find out how do I work on myself and understand how bipolar affects self-love.
From there I started searching for support groups, mostly for bipolar support. One after another, they all seemed to fail me. Except for one. The administrator cared a great deal about her members, but they still seemed to want to lay around and roll in the self-pity of bipolar. She worked very hard, but needed to work on herself also. Who doesn’t? It was obvious that the group and its members were getting the best of her. She then introduced me to the SHFT Tribe. I followed her in with very few expectations, considering I had no luck with support groups thus far.
Oh boy was I wrong! What I found in the Tribe was love and people who care. Slowly but surely, the layers of who I thought I was because of bipolar began to peel back. I learned how to deal with issues of my past that I kept bottled up inside. I became vulnerable. I began to see myself the way others saw me and began to love what I saw. In the process, I noticed that my bipolar symptoms began to ease. My maniac episodes we not as extreme anymore. My anger lessened as I was taught how to deal with such issues. My anxiety lessened as I was taught how to ground myself. But wait. These are the same tools that everybody was using. How can this be working for me? I have bipolar. My ah ha moment just happened. Bipolar emotions can be dealt with if you deal with yourself first. Everything else just seems to fall into place. Yes, I still have my days. But with medication and the tools I need to deal with everyday circumstances, life seems almost what I would consider to be normal. So in this process of growing as a person and becoming the best version of me that I can be, I adopted 10 affirmations that help me get through my daily routine.
- I am excited, happy, and anxious to go to work every day.
- I will not make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.
- I am not Bipolar Disorder. I have Bipolar Disorder.
- It is ok that I have Bipolar Disorder.
- I have nothing to be embarrassed about.
- I will share the fact that I have Bipolar Disorder because it helps to kill the stigma.
- When I am tempted, I will either remove the temptation or remove myself from the situation.
- I have these boundaries in place not for restriction but rather to define the parameters of my freedom.
- When I am considering compromise I will think past this moment and ask myself “How will I feel about this choice tomorrow morning?”
- No matter what happens I am fine.
Now I am continuing on another journey. Another chapter in my life. The one that says that I will no longer be a shadow in the corner of a crowded room. But I will be a voice that will be heard. Bipolar and any other mental illnesses need to be brought to the forefront so those that suffer do not have to live in fear and self-pity. And those that are close to them can help by being supportive and educating themselves on their illness. You can have bipolar and love yourself at the same time. It just takes a little patience, love and understanding.