written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 5/31/2011
There is a popular misconception out there that having bipolar disorder means that there are necessarily limitations placed on the individual who has that. First, we will endeavor to shatter that notion and then move on to successful coping strategies in the second article of this series.
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Freedom from the Bondage of Bipolar Oppression
Let us begin with a fundamental truth of the universe. Bipolar Disorder is not a limitation by any means, unless you choose to believe it is. Is it a struggle, a burden to carry, a long treacherous journey which requires vigilance and fortitude every step of the way? Indeed it is. Any journey towards freedom is never easy. Dating back to ancient history, be it the Jews fleeing to the promised land, to Chief Joseph leading his entire tribe and eluding three separate U.S. Armies through the rugged Rocky Mountains, to Ghandi and Martin Luther King marching toward liberty against the tyranny of oppression and stigma, these journeys end up being the greatest tales ever told.
Using these historical references as a means to understand epoch trials and tribulations can be surmounted with determination and courage can help a person overcome their own personal challenges. In many ways the bipolar individual must walk the hard road to the mountain top of freedom by themselves, yet they are never really alone, or without many hands that can pull them up throughout the climb if they are willing to ask for help. A firm understanding of the nature of bipolar symptoms arms you with what Socrates, and later Shakespeare, deemed vital for human endeavors which is the maxim “know thyself and to thine own self be true." Learn that Bipolar Disorder is a load that you must carry with you, but that it can be carried with dignity and fortitude.
Taking that first step to surmount perceived limitations caused by Bipolar Disorder requires the belief that they can and will surmount the difficulties ahead, because it is a journey worth undertaking and that personal freedom and enlightenment are well worth the struggle. There are also less severe cases where bipolar individuals actually grow fond of their disorder and would not wish to be any other way. For the others, developing the belief that any abnormalities in the mind can be made up with the strength of one’s heart and spirit is the way to proceed. You are not your disorder and you are not limited by the hardships of mental illness.
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Acceptance, Preparation, and Adaptation
There will be times when you will not feel this way. You will possibly feel (in more severe cases and cycles) that life is not even worth living, but you must keep walking through those dark passage ways because feelings are not facts. No one volunteers to be bipolar or is at fault in any way for being so. Therefore, once diagnosed, cultivating acceptance and proactive tenacity are keys to managing it. I wouldn’t be making these rash statements if I didn’t have firsthand experience.
The word ‘rash’ tends to have a negative connotation. Yet it was truly a rash decision for a rag-tag group of American colonists to declare Independence from the most powerful, far-flung empire in the world. Once again, freedom is worth fighting for, and in this case we are talking about bipolar persons freeing themselves from the false perception that their condition is a limitation. Perhaps the best place to start would be the quick, insightful read regarding challenging the stigma of Bipolar Disorder.
Once you’ve gleaned that associating with anyone trying to place shame or judgment on being bipolar is a waste of your time, it’s time to move on to successfully coping with it. This mental illness is likely to be a lifelong partner, but it can become a silent partner and the weaknesses you think you have can one day looked upon as assets. Again, it’s just a matter of attaining the right perspective. The second article in this series, will move on to some helpful coping strategies on managing and coping with any of the perceived limitations (which are really just challenges and hurdles to surmount) discussed there.
Living with bipolar disorder need not limit you in anyway. Once you accept the diagnosis, seek professional help, and find the right medications to control your mood swings, you can surmount all the challenges ahead. This series explores the mind set, strategies, and advice to help you do just that.