I often say that I have changed. I have changed exponentially since I quit gambling 58 days ago, since I restarted taking my medication, since Diego and I broke up and got back together in October, since Diego and I got back together in June, since I have been in and out of a plethora of jobs this year. I have changed since I started this blog back in February. A lot has changed, yet a lot hasn’t. I keep coming back to Diego, I keep coming back to my meds, to my safe places, to my sanctuary, and most importantly, back to God.
The title of this post poses the question: has my bipolar disorder changed? The simple answer to that is no. I have simply changed how I view it. I know my behavior has changed and my perception of the world has changed, but I’m not sure if I can attribute that to the bipolar disorder or to me finally just… growing up. Or maybe both go hand in hand with how I view the world through bipolar eyes.
How has my behavior, rhetoric, and actions changed over the course of a year, or even in four years since being diagnosed with bipolar?
Then: I used to be against taking meds.
Now: I advocate for those with the proper means and guidance to get on medication, if you and your care team agree.
What I mean by this is taking medication may not be right for everyone who struggles with bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. It may not be affordable to get certain medication or go to the doctor every three months to get a refill and a check up. Although I advocate for those who have the means to go to the doctor regularly and seek mental health treatment, I do understand that not everyone has the means.
Now I have decent insurance through my dad’s work, but even at the first of the year, when I haven’t yet reached my deductible, my Abilify (an anti-psychotic) is around $50 for a month’s worth. If it weren’t for my parents picking up the bill and if it weren’t for me working, I would have no way of affording that. Not to mention my primary care physician my parents graciously pay out of pocket for me to see because she’s the best, local mental health prescriber with a doctorate in the area.
I think knowing how truly privileged I am in being able to afford medication and go to the hospital when I need to made me originally uncomfortable; why do I get medication and mental health services while others suffer? But then again, if I don’t take advantage of the resources that I have, then no one benefits. If I’m not healthy, then I can’t get a job in the mental health field and help those who need my help most.
Then: I used to dread therapy.
Now: Now I don’t have it and I miss therapy.
This is a pretty easily fixed issue, but after seeing the same therapist for over eight years, it’s hard to put a lid on that box and walk away from it. I used to dread therapy because I felt like I had to go and I honestly wasn’t willing or ready to put in the work I needed to do to change for the better. I think the most valuable thing I learned in therapy was self-worth and I learned that through my first art project that my therapist asked me to do once I asked if I could paint something with her art supplies. Self-worth is not taught; it’s learned. If it weren’t for everything that happened the way it did, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As soon as I get a job, my foot is well enough that I can get around and I can finally start searching for a new therapist. There is a lot to go over and heal in regard to my past and present self.
Then: I used to think I was blameless when it came to my symptoms…
Now: Although bipolar gives you a reason for your symptoms, actions, or words, it does not excuse them.
If I offended someone by what I said or did, I used to not take responsibility for my actions. I would blame the issue on my newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, I had no accountability for my rhetoric. However, I learned very quickly that what I say and do almost has a greater impact than of someone without the same adversities.
Why do my words matter more? It’s not that they matter more or less than someone without bipolar; I promise you I don’t mean to come off as conceited. I feel as though when someone is going through a certain adversity, such as mental illness, you have to try that much harder to fit into the scope of what society wants and needs you to be. Although bipolar is a good reason for you flipping out on someone because you’re having an extra bad mental health day, but it doesn’t excuse you; you don’t get a free pass to be an asshole because everyone else in the world has their adversities too and that doesn’t give them the right to be an asshole.
For example, I went out to dinner with Diego and friends a long time ago. They were all of drinking age, except for me, so they made me designated driver. Little did I know was that the three of them were going to have one margarita and call it good, so why they needed a DD, I wasn’t sure. So I was under the assumption that everyone was going to get drunk at this Mexican restaurant without me. My mom was still heavily drinking at the time and that’s the only drinking that I had ever been around; irresponsible drinking that is. So I was newly bipolar and not medicated, so I flipped out at the audacity they would all have to drink in front of me after going through these traumatic experiences.
I cringe writing that… anyways, I ended up leaving the restaurant and Diego almost broke up with me for embarrassing him in front of his good friends. I asked him why he would put me in a situation like that, knowing good and well I wasn’t ready and he said the world didn’t revolve around me and my specifications. Bipolar gave me a reason for acting out, but it doesn’t excuse my actions.
Now I have more control over my emotions and feelings considering I am well medicated. I don’t shut down nearly as often as I used to in regard to situations like that. I am positive I overreact in other ways and say things I don’t mean, but more often than not, I apologize and make the situation better than when I left it.
Then: I didn’t know how to cope with my feelings.
Now: I have coping mechanisms that I use daily.
This is a rather new thing; well at least in the past year and a half. I often would shut down and have no where to go besides down the rabbit hole of despair. It was very toxic for me to internalize my feelings without having a positive outlet. I would often look to gambling, working a lot more than I should, putting more activities on my plate than I could handle.
That’s when Kelley, my old therapist introduced me to painting. She had paintings from other clients sitting out to dry and I asked her if I could start one. Now 25 paintings later, I haven’t turned into a better artist, but I have learned that painting and creating someone makes me feel good.
I don’t have a very large attention span, unless I am super involved in a super intense project and then I will let it consume me and the time flies. But with painting I can spend a hour and a half from set up to clean up and not have a single worry in the world. I love that. I have also become an avid blogger within the past year and without having a therapist at the moment, blogging has been a God send. There is also cooking and baking that I get very involved with when I do them. I enjoy Pokemon Go and playing Super Mario Brothers on Diego’s Nintendo Switch.
It’s not much, but it’s something that fully distracts me from my self destructive ways.
I think I have changed in more subtle ways than I could ever list in one short, blog post, so I’ll refrain from boring you to tears. Let me know in the comments how your bipolar disorder or mental illness has or hasn’t changed over the years and tell me what has been a noticeable difference in your life.