I can’t believe I made it to the other side; I’ve reached stability. It’s kind of surreal. I have accepted that I’ll have bipolar disorder for the rest of my life, but as long as I am able to keep up this treatment regimen and as long as I keep staying away from alcohol I might be okay. There’s a lot that needed to change about my life and I’m finally feeling like a normal person. Now, normal is not all it’s chalked up to be but with that normalcy comes clarity, and with that clarity my boundaries are easier to enforce and I’m fully cognizant of my personal stressful triggers.
Yes, sometimes I do get stressed out and can only hold myself together for so long, but I will try the best I can to prevent that from happening. I’ve long thought of bipolar disorder as a physiological disorder because that gets lost on someone who doesn’t have it. My body has shown that it’s in charge and it does not like when I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be or around someone I’m not supposed to.
Both polar ends of this disorder are harmful and difficult to live with. I did not think I could live while I was suicidal but people really underestimate how hard going through with it is. Maybe that’s the case for me, as I mostly spent months and then years too depressed to do anything. Crying hurt too much but you eventually stop crying until you need to cry again. It’s really okay to cry if you need to. You can’t fight that need for release.
If you manage to not cry, it will manifest in other, more harmful ways. I had a panic attack after leaving a bullshit job (I don’t like failure) but my dad will still pick up the phone to talk, without fail. He has gotten me through it every time, even that one time he realized I just needed to cry it out like a toddler. It’s overwhelming but it doesn’t last. Feelings come and go. No feeling is final.
So, yes, stress IS a trigger. If I can’t go to loud or crowded places anymore, that’s the way it is. I think I had more than enough chaos in my 20s that I have to keep in mind there’s nothing more important than having peace and some semblance of control. Boundaries are very hard to enforce, but the more you do, the more right it feels. You might feel like you’re missing out somewhere, but I don’t. I know I’m missing out on getting hurt.
Do I feel like I’ve lost some of myself? I mean, as a writer, I do think my talent has taken a bit of a hit. I used writing and painting for catharsis and self-expression so I sort of feel like a blank slate. I don’t think my emotions are dulled at all, though. I do not feel numb at all. I still have my sense of humor and hopefully some of it is still ridiculous. I feel lighter.
But like I said, I can still be triggered. The episode won’t last past the trigger, but I will still be in pain if I lose that control over my emotions. I don’t think I’ve been this rational in my whole life. Even during my last panic attack, as I was hyperventilating, I wasn’t scared, I just needed to share it with someone to lighten the burden. I knew in that moment what triggered me would not bother me anymore after that. I would be fine. You have to let the attack run its course. Just like crying. It’s not only okay to release, it’s needed. Life is hard and life is unfair. Sometimes even the strongest find themselves folding.
Success to me is peace. Success to me is not wanting to kill myself. Success to me is waiting out the 3 or 4 times I desperately wanted to drink again these past 10 months. I get to come up on a year again. I know when I need a meeting; it’s an hour away from that feeling. Stabilization has given me my agency back. Inside my body, my brain, it’s so different. I told myself that I wouldn’t kill myself until I’d tried everything, and I mean everything. I still hadn’t tried things like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) or something intense like ayahuasca.
I stay away from street drugs and alcohol but I’m a proponent of psychedelics. You might not like how they feel but they’re not going to kill you or make your life unmanageable because they’re not physically addictive. It’s all up here. I’ve smoked marijuana since right out of high-school and I never personally experienced psychosis. Psychosis is not part of my type of bipolar disorder; just impulsivity, racing thoughts, irritability, crying, severe depression, addiction, codependency, hypersexuality, compulsive spending, reckless behavior, insensitivity, and no filter. Just, right?
Those are all arrested right now. I’m still an alcoholic. I’m still bipolar. But I’m not symptomatic and I have my rational brain back. It wasn’t broken; it was just uncontrolled. I’m a whole person and I always was. And like they say in AA, “keep it green.” If I start thinking I’m recovered, I risk falling complacent and relapsing, both on alcohol and back to a lifestyle that only HURT me.
I don’t want to suffer. I suffered alone. That’s the worst way to suffer. But to be given another chance at being at peace? Being alone with that isn’t so bad.
If you’re still in a bad place, things can change. Your life can become less toxic. I’m grateful for pharmaceuticals because I wouldn’t be here without them. Looking back, how I was and where I was and what I was, that was my normal. Don’t ever forget how adaptive and resilient you are. Our lives are harder but it’s doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to live. We can intervene in our own lives. We can take back some agency. We can break vicious cycles. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others and we should define success in our own way.
And it’s okay to not be okay. “This” is not it. Good or bad, this too shall pass. The only constant is change.
I’ll leave you with this powerful chapter from Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.