When I was a young girl, and then a young woman, nothing could stop me. I felt there was nothing to fear. As a child, I rode my bike alone throughout the town. As a young woman, I traveled alone in countries across the globe. I knew that things would always work out fine, even if I ran into trouble.
Was it just the way I was raised that made me, a female, so confident and unintimidated? Or did a bit of my bipolar disorder contribute to that, too? After all, bipolar mania can make you feel on top of the world, indestructible, and all powerful. It can also make you more apt to taking risks because of an impulsivity that a stable mind would resist because of common sense, or general caution.
Exhibiting an air of confidence can get you many places and many things. How easy it was for me to find jobs back then. How easy it was to make friends. I could sell people on many of my ideas. I often lacked the fear of embarrassment. Making mistakes did not drag me down.
But bipolar depression is also a hallmark of the disorder. Often so is anxiety. When in that state one’s usual self-assurance can almost disappear. Other opposites of mania are common. You may feel destructible, powerless, and hopeless. When depressed, I have often run to my bed and hid under the covers, and not come out. Sometimes even shaking.
During my very worst of times I felt frustrated and desperate, not just because of the illness, but even as a result of the sedation and side effects of medication treatments. Tell me to travel the world on my own during that type of state? I surely couldn’t do it. I’d cling to my pillow. Sell myself to a prospective employer? Well, some of my skills remained, but my capability to endure the daily grind seemed significantly lost. And many of these feelings remained, even when my moods were labeled “supposedly stable”. It was if I was knocked down several pegs, weakened to my core, made anxious beyond belief, and even traumatized by the experience.
How sad and weak do my words above sound to you? Well, not too sad if you only read the first couple of paragraphs, but very sad otherwise. If I look back to my years between ages 1-32 I’d say I had more great ones than bad ones, but unfortunately that did change as my 30s progressed. And my 40s have been a bit of a challenge, too. I guess one might think I weakened over time. I’d say that, too, but at the same time I never really had what I considered challenges in my early life.
Do you know what? Just lifting myself up out of bed from being knocked down, bruised and scraped shows bravery! Consenting to treatments as intimidating as ECT is bravery! Continuing the search for the right medication mix after years and years of searching shows bravery! Patiently enduring side effects in exchange for some level of sanity is bravery! Getting in the car and driving to the store is bravery. Definitely pushing that cart all the way through the checkout line is bravery. Fighting the stigma of mental illness as an armchair warrior is bravery!
For my love, for my feathered friend, for my dad, and siblings, and friends…for all of my fellow bipolar compatriots and their loved ones, I persist and continue to fight this grueling battle. For the memory of my dear lost nephew, I remain a living breathing surviving soldier. I will not surrender. No! I will continue the fight until the very end. Let me triumph as I may over this war in my head. It won’t be easy, but the greatest victories are the toughest to win. I am brave! I will continue my quest to forge forward, if I have to roar at the sky, or even clench my fists until my nails cut my palms. I will not be taken!