Living with the Bum Wrap of Bipolar

For as serious as Bipolar is, it’s labeled with such a demeaning stigma the person afflicted is afraid to utter the word. Families of those who have it often pounce on its criticisms to plead sympathies for themselves or refuse to acknowledge it as a real disease all together.

There are many support groups for family members, but they’re few and far between for patients. This speaks clearly for itself. For all of the harsh criticism drawn of it, none of this does anything to help those who live inside Bipolar.

This makes it all the more interesting that Bipolar seems to run in families and often with the very family members who are most dismissive or critical. I don’t profess to have profound medical knowledge but I can speak from experience. It is fairly rampant in my family, from the eldest who denounces it as being real to the youngest who applies its harshest stigmas on a personally demeaning level.

Untreated Bipolar is the most difficult and cruel for these reasons and more.

Living in Bipolar is deceiving. Today its symptoms are more likely to be recognized at a young age but that wasn’t always the case. I suspect in large part it still goes undiagnosed and misdiagnosed. There are many of us who grew up in the generation of “just get over it” when you were depressed; or “what’s wrong with you, why can’t you behave” when you were manic. Bipolar’s condition was viewed as a series of character flaws and those criticisms are what we (wrongly) grew up believing about ourselves.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statues. [Pslams 119:71]

Being diagnosed and effectively treated for Bipolar late in life offered one great insight: By comparison we learned how normal it felt to live inside Bipolar and how invisible its influence was on us. We learned the world was not the world we thought. We learned how “normal life” really felt and how our skewed vision affected so many of our decisions … critical decisions that directed our lives in tremendous ways. We suddenly realized how much better our life could be if we had made better-grounded decisions. Instead, our decisions were influenced by manic highs or suicidal lows when everything around us was already out of whack, so those decisions only added to our life’s whackiness.

Treating Bipolar is tricky business because finding the right medication is tricky. It doesn’t happen quickly and the outcome depends on how much effort the doctor and the patient put into it.

Medications for Bipolar are serious because they alter an individual’s brain chemistry. A medication is introduced over time and if that medication doesn’t work it takes gradual doses to get off of it and start all over again. In the meantime some of those medications can have subtle but serious short-term affects, like confusion, loss of memory or an inability to reason; enhancing depression or simply causing physical affects that we’ve mistakenly attributed to something else or that take time to recognize.

Some doctors and patients may be fortunate enough to hit on an effective medication early in the process. Or it can take a year or two before landing on the right one. It is critical for a medicated individual to stay consistent in taking Bipolar medication. Once acclimated, if doses are missed the symptoms of the disease can manifest in dramatically more intense ways, which is one train of thought in advocating against medicated treatment. In my opinion, medication normalizes my world to a much greater benefit than those concerns merit, but I am also rigidly keen in ensuring I do not miss any doses.

An effect that can come from finally treating Bipolar after a lifetime of suffering in it is family who rejects you getting healthy. That sounds bizarre but doctors agree it is not uncommon. Perhaps improving one’s mental health threatens those who’ve become emotionally addicted to their criticisms of the behavior (you); who’ve felt comfortable in their place in a family only because you weren’t comfortable in yours. It is surprising how people react when their allegiances among family (insecurities) are tested. Getting healthy from Bipolar reveals others’ true natures and those aren’t always pretty or what we thought they were, either. Be prepared to learn the unpleasant truth.

The process of treating Bipolar is an individual and precise one that doctors alone cannot determine. Successful treatment requires the patient to be as aware of acceptable changes in their mind and body as the doctor is from an observing medical perspective.

The good news is, Bipolar is often found in geniuses.