Managing my bipolar

If I could transport myself to the time when I was in my mid-twenties, I would’ve most certainly told myself, “It’s going to be okay.” The years 2007 to 2009 were a turbulent time in my life, you see. But they were also very critical, in terms of how I let life experience shape my psyche and outlook. I was twenty-four years old, and had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In hindsight, things happened faster than I could’ve handled, but somehow I’ve made it through the good and bad times alike.

After living with bipolar for more than eight years now, I know it’s not always easy for myself and for those closest to me. I can be very difficult, but I’m willing to acknowledge that. And, I strongly believe in that saying, despite being an atheist, ‘god helps those who help themselves.’ I try to be a better person, and be better equipped to deal with my bipolar.

Yes, there was a time in my journey when I was thoroughly vulnerable, because things weren’t in my control. I still, from to time, have trying times, but who doesn’t. The difference is I deal with things in a more extreme fashion than most would, that’s my bipolar. What I know is that I’ve become tougher with experience, and able to better recognize when I need help, and when to keep a distance from a given situation.

I was diagnosed at a mental health institution in Toronto, under the constant support of family and friends, whether I liked it or not. And after the initial turbulent diagnosis, I took things in my own hands and continued taking medication, and seeking therapy — for the most part. It can be a struggle, and many of those, diagnosed with mental illness, who don’t receive support or help from the community, and aren’t mentally strong themselves, those individuals can potentially end up deteriorating their entire lives, which is a pity.

I know that around the time of my diagnosis, my family and friends were very concerned about me, and naturally so. I was undergoing massive mood changes, that were disruptively jarring to witness for them, and also me. A number of them were quiet about the whole affair, trying to maybe protect me, seeing no point in broadcasting my troubles, lest I be treated differently. It’s fine and fair they conducted things that way, they had their reasons.

Today, I view those reasons as akin to feeling shameful, uncomfortable, and stigmatized about issues related to mental health. I know not everyone is like me, being so outspoken about their mood disorders, but it’s very important to me to attempt to make a difference. It was because of sharing my experience with other family, friends, strangers, bosses, that people realized I was like any other person, except with a mood disorder, wasn’t demonized, and thus, came to be better understood.

Today happens to be World Mental Health Day. And on a lighter note, today is also World Handbag Day. That just goes to show how such days and birthdays can be fickle. Jokes aside, I know that bipolar will remain a constant in my life, just like millions of others out there who cope, whether diagnosed or still undiagnosed, with depression, OCD, schizophrenia. The point of celebrating such days helps normalize otherwise different people or even ‘deviant’ behaviour. There’ve been days when I’ve felt sorry for myself. But I’ve learned that my bipolar feeds off how well I manage it, whether that involves writing, painting, or venting in general, etc, and that’s all. I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

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