“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”AA Serenity Prayer
In regard to coming to terms with bipolar, I have a long way to go. After four years, you would think that I would have just accepted my fate in life and move on, but it’s hard to acknowledge what is out of your control.
Nobody willingly says, ‘hi, I would like one mental illness, please!” You just are mentally ill or you’re not. With that same logic, you don’t willingly go look for drugs if you’re sick, you don’t willingly find distractions to take the pain away. You are compelled or even summoned to find a cure all. Or at least something to take the hurt away.
This goes for either depression or mania. When you are depressed, you look for things to make you happy or find a release of dopamine. It’s why many who struggle with mental illness self harm. Cutting one’s self presents the body with a release of dopamine which helps “solve” the problem.
Same goes for mania. We are so over stimulated, that we strive to find more distractions only to then begin a new distraction. For me, during my manic high I went from cleaning the house, to urgently painting, then to drawing in a matter of minutes. I had my music as loud as it would go. My hands were shaking. I hadn’t truly slept in days. It’s why people with bipolar are more inclined to try Cocaine when they are manic. Cocaine is a dopamine rush on top of the manic chase for more dopamine and stimulation.
Dopamine is closely associated with adrenaline and also with addiction.
Dopamine levels are raised in our systems when we get an adrenaline rush, like when we drive fast on the highway, or playing an intense video game. When we win the game and the adrenaline is over with, our dopamine levels peak.
And then we drop.
When we drop, that’s when us bipolar folks go into a depression. Hence the mood swings. Or when we have been in a consistent manic state for days or even weeks, we turn that sudden drop in dopamine into a chase for more dopamine and stimulus.
It’s exhausting to say the least. No wonder I am fatigued all of the time. It’s also why we are prone to addiction. Alcohol, drugs, and gambling provide you with a dopamine high once you reach a certain level. The more you partake, the more you need to reach the same high.
It’s why I am so careful when it comes to drugs and alcohol, because I’m already a gambling addict. Also I don’t want to become my mother. It’s all too easy to use substances for the wrong reasons so I partake occasionally and only in moderation.
Bipolar: A Spectrum
I personally think that bipolar disorder is one spectrum with two extremes. Most people reside in the middle, only going to one extreme after a traumatic event or so. But most people can regulate their emotions and feelings without substances or medication.
Whereas the bipolar person resides on both ends of the spectrum, moving back and forth like a dial on a stereo. Depending on the severity of the swings aka cycling, the knob turns faster or harder representing rapid cycling while the slower the knob turns, the less mood swings there are.
Medication and therapy can slow the turning of the dial, but it doesn’t stop it entirely. Instead you are slowly turning through phases of a manic or depressive episode, respectively. There is little or no rest in between the two stages.
This leaves you with your whole life to deal with. You still gotta cook, still have to clean, have friends, go to work or school, maintain a family life, go shopping, make enough money, be in a relationship. Bipolar is enough of a full time job so I’m not sure how anyone functions with this disorder AND do all of these things all at the same time.
Something has got to give. And that isn’t me being pessimistic or tapping out of my bipolar diagnosis. That is me being realistic. Nobody is perfect and someone or something must be sacrificed. That’s even when you’re doing everything right.
I think I struggle most with my bipolar diagnosis because at the end of the day, no one wins. Not you. Not your friends, or family, or career. Actually. You know who wins? The disorder wins.
Bipolar affects your life moment to moment. It affects the mind and body in so many different ways that with very action you perform, bipolar wins in some way. You may be doing everything right, but if you have to rely on coping mechanisms to do those actions or you partake in an activity but not at full capacity, it’s almost like a win for bipolar as well.
What I have learned to help get rid of that ideology is to use the serenity prayer that I quoted earlier.
Please grant me with peace to ACCEPT the things I cannot change (bipolar.)
The strength to change the things I can (my thoughts and actions.)
And the wisdom to know the difference (the difference between what we can control or not.)
With that being said, I am more prepared now more than ever to accept that I have this mental illness and that it’s not going anywhere. All I can do is be my best self and not let the disorder ruin my life.
Til Next Time,