So, yes, this is an illness and, yes, much of the time it sucks so hard. But my bipolar isn’t going anywhere and, recently, I kind of decided that it might do me some good to look a little harder for the silver lining when I’m confronted with something that’s potentially shitty, because I do a lot of complaining and I don’t want to have spent more of my life complaining about things I can’t change rather than appreciating them, assuming there’s something to appreciate. With bipolar disorder, there is actually kind of a lot to appreciate. Such as…
– I have greater confidence in my marriage because my husband has seen me do some fucked up shit and is 100% not scared of me (but sometimes he’s scared for me, which is a good thing). I was hospitalized for some super not fun suicide-y shit 3 months after Husband and I started dating and he handled it better than my own mother did (which actually isn’t a compliment, really, because my mom is terrible at being emotionally supportive. She’s good at other stuff, though). But Then-Boyfriend-Now-Husband never saw me as melodramatic, too much to handle, or crazy; he understood that I needed help, so he helped me.
– I usually dress kind of conservatively (as in understated neutrals, not IFB fundie-style modesty), so, when I’m feeling a little hypomanic, the over-confident impulse purchases I make tend to give my wardrobe a little more character.
– When I talk to other bipolar people about our illness, we kind of speak in our own special shorthand. It feels really nice, because, sometimes, I’m the only bipolar person in the room, but when I’m around other people who share my disorder, I feel kinship. It’s pretty neat.
– Sometimes I have these intense deluges of creativity and I get to make stuff with my brain and be really proud of it.
– I know what complete despair feels like. Not everybody does. Despair is its own special flavor of horrible, but it’s part of life and there are times when I literally can’t not despair, try as I might. So as long as I’m stuck savoring this dumb flavor, it helps to keep in mind that being capable of hopelessness is uniquely human. Corny sentiment, maybe, but when you feel like you have nothing left to live for, corny can be plenty effective.
– Sub-point on the despair thing: being pathologically sad has afforded me countless opportunities to cultivate compassion. People in my life who lack compassion and empathy get filed under “Strangers”. At some point, I resurface from periodic, soul-flattening depression and I have to do a little restructuring. It strikes me as incredibly wasteful and impractical to have spent so much time and energy being sad and then refuse to learn anything from it. Like how to be there for someone who’s going through their own episode. Like how listening is usually more important than talking. Like being able to tell when someone needs my company because it’s unsafe for them to be alone. And lots more.
– It’s really, really hard to freak me out. I will buy you a drink if you manage it.
– Sometimes hypomania feels really good. I’ve had episodes that were basically a vacation from self-consciousness. Feeling infallible and invincible is not a pragmatic way to go through life, but being able to feel those things from time to time is undeniably great. Waking up one day to find that you’re smarter, quicker, prettier, more capable, more creative, more productive, and more energetic than you were yesterday is cool as hell. Arguably worth the subsequent massive letdown. Arguably…
– I don’t have a ton of shame left. I think I used up the bulk of it during my childhood.
– Sometimes we get the fun meds. Most of my meds suck in terms of maintenance and side-effects. But some of my meds list “euphoria” as a side-effect. Killer.
– After years of therapy and a hyperbolic myriad of different meds, I’m actually pretty high-functioning. It wasn’t easy for me to get here and things still go really wrong sometimes, but the cool thing is that it’s 2015 and not 1950, so I’ve been able to develop life skills and learn to handle my illness in the real world, whereas, 50 or 60 years ago, I could have been staring down an involuntary lifelong internment in a mental hospital after my very first episode.
– I get high on exercise. I don’t actually know if that’s a bipolar thing or a Laura thing, but after intense physical activity, my brain is fully lit up and I feel like I could pull a freighter with my teeth.
– It’s easier for me to weed undesirable people out of my life. Individuals who interpret “bipolar” as “crazy” are pretty detectable to me at this point. Prejudice and intolerance are two of the most useless things human beings lay on each other. Those who decide to do so can find some other blindingly gorgeous and undeniably captivating woman with a 1,000 point IQ to hang out with.
– I’m almost never bored. Not with this brain.
– Oh yeah, I get to write this blog. I like this blog. A bunch.
So, it should be fairly obvious that I’m in a decent mood today and I recognize that, while I’m feeling good, it’s not especially hard to make a list like the one above. But, just like I don’t want to waste my sadness, I don’t want to waste my happiness either. So when I inevitably get slammed into another big, dumb depression, I’m probably gonna be pretty glad that I flipped on the switch at the light at the end of the tunnel preemptively, so I don’t forget (like I usually do) that the tunnel, does, in fact end. So, show off your own optimism in the comments. I bet you have some and I’m totally stoked to read about it.