…..that is the eternal debate between people who say “I’m bipolar” and those who prefer “I have bipolar”.
There are good arguments on both sides of the aisle. You’ve probably never heard someone say “I am cancer” or “I am heart disease”, because no one really wants to be defined by their illness. On the other hand, lots of folks say “I’m bipolar” or “I’m a diabetic” and don’t think a thing of it. After all, the illness is a part of them, like brown eyes or hobbit feet, and saying so doesn’t necessarily mean they over-identify with it.
Me, I use both expressions interchangeably, although I’ve noticed that I tend to use “I have bipolar disorder” in more formal situations, such as talking with an authority figure like a supervisor or a doctor who doesn’t know me. I’m not quite sure why that is, because in everyday conversation I say “I’m bipolar” (well, when the subject comes up—I don’t exactly go around announcing it on street corners). You wouldn’t know it now by my casual references to myself as being bipolar, but it took me a long time to stop seeing the beast as a separate entity that lived in the house with me, ate my food, and wore my clothes. I even used to believe that I could tell it to behave and walk away from it.
That’s where Dr. Awesomesauce, and to some extent my sister Louise, come in. Over time, they have gently but persistently forced me to accept the reality of the disorder as part of my makeup. It’s funny now, but for the first year I thought Dr. A was just humoring me by giving me that BP-NOS diagnosis, and that at any time he’d tell me my REAL diagnosis was plain unipolar depression. In fact, I didn’t take it seriously, even after the occurrence of several particularly severe mood episodes, until the meds started getting serious.
As I’ve mentioned before, my psychiatrist is very conservative in prescribing medications—for which I’m grateful, as I really don’t want to be a zombie—and full acceptance of my condition didn’t happen until I realized that I will probably never come off anti-psychotics. We haven’t even discussed that since last summer, and the way things are going I’ll feel fortunate if I can get back down to only one, because the combination of Celexa, Klonopin, Lamictal, Geodon, and Zyprexa have brought me as close to stability as I’m ever going to get in this lifetime.
But it is what it is, and what bipolar is is part of the colorful tapestry that makes up the woman you know as bpnurse. It is not all of me, but it is one of the louder and more obnoxious aspects of me. However….it’s also what drives my creativity and gives me the energy to express it, so it’s not all bad.
To be bipolar, or to have bipolar: that is the question. And the answer is, it depends on the situation and the prevailing mood…..just like everything else with us. ;-)