More Ways to Live With Bipolar Disorder
By Sarah Ryan
It is quite apparent that the voice of suffering is a powerful one. People with bipolar, around the globe, have sought out connection, resonance and insight. We, the affected people, are often suffering in silence, unable to disclose our condition out of fear of retribution, judgment, and ignorance. Given that I can understand why people have clung to the messages that Natasha Tracy preaches. She has been admirable in her openness, and I do not for a moment want to detract from that. I’m proud of her for that. Her visibility has obviously offered solace to many, and they are grateful. What’s not to respect about that? I can understand why on a human level the slightest inkling of connection would be coveted by many people who may be suffering alone. That said, her message does not have to resonate with every person who has ever had bipolar. It would be asinine to think so.
So I will attempt to clarify my earlier post, and my position on the subject I raised.
I hadn’t anticipated the amount of attention that my recent blog post would receive, and I’ve learned to make more detailed points in my writing, which I will do from here forward. I’m thankful for those who pointed out my lack of backing information. They were correct to say so. It was primarily lazy on my part, but I (like many of you) had an emotional reaction and the result was perhaps not my best bit of text.
I feel as though it is important for me to begin by introducing myself as well, properly. I am Sarah Ryan. I am 35. I have bipolar. I am a human. I am a registered nurse, and my undergraduate studies were in liberal arts, with an emphasis on psychology. I have also attended graduate school studying new media and web design. I’ve enjoyed all the scribbled in and highlighted books immensely. I’ll probably always be in college (sorry dear husband) because I’m just that sort of curious creature.
I think my voice is just as powerful as any of yours though, regardless of your race, religion, socioeconomic background, political stance, height, weight, gender, sexual orientation, love of hotdogs, belief in aliens, or the like. I do think my education was valuable in that it taught me how to think critically more than anything else. Oh, and I can start an IV. That’s pretty cool. It made me hungry for information and that continues to this day.
So, this brings me back to my earlier musings. Who do we declare an expert, and what messages do we internalize as truths? The answer is very individual obviously.
Do you believe everything you read? If so, why? I don’t believe everything I read. I question things, devour ideas, do my own research, and then most likely change my stance multiple times due to various influencing people and factors. I think it’s a necessary part of living. It’s like air and water for my mind. It’s healthy to question your perceived “reality.” I did this when I read Natasha Tracy’s work.
So while many of you found connection with her, I didn’t. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I have an ill will towards her, not in the slightest actually. For all I know she is the salt of the earth. What sort of person she is doesn’t actually matter because I have no way of knowing, nor is it relevant. I am only interested in her published works… and you should be as well.
We question the pharmaceutical industry because of financial motives. We question doctors and their abilities. We question hospitals for their treatment of us, and the public for their lack of understanding. So why wouldn’t you question the writing of a blogger who lacks any medical qualifications? She is but one voice, and there are so many of us out there. She chooses which studies and doctors to cite, so chances are those people agree with her perspective, or she has derived it from them to begin with. I have no idea how to tell who is the chicken, and who is the egg.
The very fact that she is public with her disorder is powerful, and I have the utmost respect for her speaking about her experiences in great detail. I simply intend to do the same, and our beliefs are not aligned.
I care deeply about people. That’s why I became a nurse. I wanted to affect people positively with my compassion, my science driven brain, and my capable hands. I didn’t choose to have bipolar, but I carry the same convictions when it comes to this issue also. I want to impact others positively, so I take care of myself, and worked incredibly hard to find my version of wellness. I was also given the profound gifts of education, family support, and intellect and I intend to do them all justice. I will continue to try and impact people positively, and offer a message of healing, for the duration of my life.
I hope many of you will agree that one size does not fit all when it comes to bipolar. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning we are all affected differently. Pharmaceutical based therapy affects each of us differently on a microbiological level. That’s why we experience the med-go-round phenomenon and there isn’t a single magic treatment. Some people live their version of a good life without medication. Some people take a fist full each morning. There is no right or wrong answer. There is only your answer. Given the fact that we are all unique biological beings, with alternate upbringings, resources, ideologies, and spirits, it doesn’t make sense to think there is only one form of suffering, or triumph, when it comes to this disorder. Why be satisfied with the perspective of only one human life?
My message is as unique as me.
My experience is that of profound improvement. Some might call it recovery, others are offended at this very idea. But my experience is just as valuable as Natasha’s. If we teach people that mental health is as important as physical health the world would be a better place. That’s not a message you can quote in any of her writing. She says the opposite.
She states “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that an illness that has disordered my brain has fundamentally changed who I am. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that bipolar is not the same thing as a broken leg.” (http://natashatracy.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-who-you-are/)
I can not concur! I think bipolar has not changed who I am fundamentally. It’s made it challenging as hell to live the way I would like to at times, and it has threatened my very life, like so many of you. But I have always been this compassionate, caring, inquisitive soul with profound bursts of creativity and curiosity. I have a wild side and I cherish it. I have a nerdy side and I relish in it. I have many facets and gifts, just like all of you!
I do see bipolar as relative to a broken leg. My mind was broken, and now I don’t feel that it is. For me, this is a medical and spiritual issue. Will this state of recovery continue for all time? I don’t know, and that scares me. It should. That is the very reason I work at it – everyday. But this is where I am now, and have been for quite some time. If this thing raises it’s ugly head again, I’ll approach it with the same tireless devotion as in the past until it’s sorted out. That’s my strength talking, and I know so many of you have the same ability to demand a better quality of life.
I want to offer information to the masses so they might examine ways to obtain a better quality of life, and that means a wide variety of topics need to be discussed.
Now I understand that people need to connect to the negative experiences they have endured. I could write for days about my many challenges, and at some point this will be explored further. I think it will make me more human to all of you. In the mean time, I just want to convey that even in my darkest hour, I knew I didn’t have to accept it and you shouldn’t either. Fight. Fight hard.
Suffering is real, and this thing that has been attached to our physical minds and emotional selves is a burden (without relent for some). But why give up and accept it full stop? I feel this is the message in Ms.Tracy’s writing. She writes, “Lifelong diseases like depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses naturally grind people down because they never go away.” (http://natashatracy.com/bipolar-disorder/im-tired-fighting-bipolar-disorder/)
I’m not apologetic for believing that language like this is detrimental to the idea of profound improvement and recovery. I’m not even going to address her hand-picked science sources because they are simply that – hand-picked. Instead of perpetuating the negativity and dwelling on her writing, I have decided to just keep conveying my own ideas and sources. I encourage you to judge me accordingly.
I want people to feel hope for the promise of an easier time, and their version of normal. Normal is relative after all.
I don’t think that alternative treatments should be dismissed and not investigated. She does. (http://www.healthline.com/health-blogs/bipolar-bites/why-samhsa-should-nothing-do-alternative-conference) I don’t think there is any one way to live, but time and time again in her writing she states her position emphatically as the fundamental truth about bipolar. It’s not my truth.
I thought heavily about going through all her articles and posting quotes that repulse me, but it seems like a waste of time, and devoid of purpose other than to discredit her. I’m not interested in doing that – at all. The purpose of my post was to say, I have a different message. I have a different attitude entirely and over time my project will share more science and perspectives with the masses. Sure I could have been more eloquent in my short post this morning, but I was angry.
I’m angry that people accept notions of impending death, intense side-effects, social isolation, and suffering as an inevitability. I changed medication combinations 10+ times before I reached something that approached normal. I quit drinking (and I’m Irish). I sit under a sun-lamp everyday. I go to sleep on-time. I am in therapy. I have a life-coach. I don’t entertain my triggers. But you know what helps me the most? My family, my dear beloved husband, and friends. Their love and patience has gotten me through it all. (Thanks again guys. I love you.) My point is I fucking worked at it. I do everyday and so can you. Just keep going until you get it right, whatever that combination is – be it medication or hourly meditation. It’s irrelevant what course you take, you should be celebrated for trying as many possible strategies as you can discover.
So, let’s leave Natasha alone (if possible), and all of you who are her followers, I implore you to do what’s best for you. Listen to whomever brings you comfort. I support you fully. If you are interested in a new voice, one of self-empowerment and recognition of your “mad-gifts”… well then I’m here for you with open arms. I stand by my previous statements. Don’t internalize the negativity. It will not help you recover, nor maintain stability. You have to work for that, but it is so very worth it. I assure you.
Tomorrow is a new day, and I am looking forward to it. I send my love to you all, wherever you are in the process of suffering or recovering. Happiness awaits you… XO