I’ve been writing this blog from the perspective of the positive side of Bipolar Disorder, at least that was my intention. There were some times that it was difficult to do. I feel I have grown in the past year and a half since the start of this blog. It hasn’t always been easy to see the advantage of having Bipolar Disorder especially when I’m in the middle of an episode. I can assure you, though, there is…at least from my perspective, a definite advantage.
Let me start with a poem that my doctor read to me during our last session. It’s called “The Guest House” by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I found this poem so profound. It really helped me put together all the work I’ve been doing to try to understand the different levels of mania and depression and how to function within them. I have been working so hard to not only accept these states, but welcome them. Now, let me explain that last part. By welcoming the states, I am able to see the value and advantage in each state. For instance, I’ll start with mania (that’s usually the easiest one). When I’m in a manic state, but still in control (and not just in my head, others around can see the controlled state) I am able to be quite productive in work, house work, advocacy work, volunteer work, etc. I, however, don’t stay in this state too long. I am an ultra rapid cycler and if I don’t watch it, I can cycle out of control rather quickly. When I’m in a depressive state, I tend to have more empathy for people. I may not always be nice depending on the degree of depression, but this is when I tend to do more service oriented tasks. By helping others, it helps to take my mind off of the depression. This is when I will start more volunteer projects and usually just on my own…not with organizations.
I’m not saying these things to advocate that you should actively stay in either of your states. I can just appreciate what I learn from each one. I do learn something each time. This goes right along with my “Live life with no regrets” motto. If I learn from each state, how can I regret having been through it? The advice my doctor gave me for the next time I’m in either mania or depression is to simply say “hello”. Actually address it and welcome it. By doing so, I take its power away and empower myself. I like that. The whole idea of the online course I’ve been taking (at least for me) is to empower myself. To not live in fear of my illness. To not be at the mercy of my illness. I have by no means perfected the skills yet, but I practice every day. By practicing every day, I grow stronger every day.
This strength I gain means the world to me. It spills over into other aspects of my life. Once you can see the value and advantage in something that was once so scary and stigmatizing, it’s no longer stigmatizing to you. Does that make sense? For me, that is very empowering.