A section where I take one topic and hit it from two different bipolar perspectives. This is the place where we encourage you to join in on the conversation, share your experience, and let us know where YOU stand.
MindTrip CROSSFIRE: BIPOLAR EDITION #5 Is Bipolar Disorder a Blessing or a Curse?
Contributors: Nicole Lyons & Marta Edmisten
“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence.”― Edgar Allan Poe
I Don’t Really Know If Having Bipolar Is A Blessing…
Is having any major illness — especially a chronic one that robs you of your ability to think and act rationally AND kindly — A good thing? I hurt people I love dearly, I have gotten myself into trouble, I lived (and at times almost didn’t live) with a constant wish for things to just end. Worst of all, I hated me. Is dealing with the stigma associated with a mental illness fun? I lost some amazing opportunities and still deal with a lot of unwarranted abuse. I’ve also had other more-than-pesky physical health repercussions from treatments that I’ll most probably have to deal with for the rest of my life. That sucks. I’m not grateful.
At this point, I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I’ve had over five years of pretty reliable stability. And I firmly believe that people who’ve faced huge hurdles get to the other side with more compassion, gratitude, strength, and self-awareness than others. Alternatively they live with a bitterness that is probably more painful than the initial issue. I can happily say that my journey has led me to the first scenario. Little stuff seems to throw me less than it does most other people. I often find that I can handle the big life stuff with more ease. I’m not implying that I’m the freaking Dali Lama, but I have perspective. In my mind, nothing can touch the desperation that I lived with day in and out for the vast majority of my 40+ years on this planet.
I don’t know who or where I’d be without bipolar disorder as part of my life. What I do know is that now I appreciate being alive every damn day — even really hard ones. Is it a blessing? I simply can’t say. But I do feel blessed.
Marta lives in Brooklyn, NY with her dog BullyBean. She’s a multimedia artist and uses her 25 year battle-to-collaboration with Bipolar Disorder as a peer and family counselor, an International Bipolar Foundation volunteer, a mental health advocate and rabid stigma buster. Marta earned a BFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. She worked in various capacities for several NYC Museums, operated Plain Jane’s Green Cleaning service for over a decade using nontoxic cleaning products she developed and marketed by the same name. You can find her on Twitter and Tumblr.
“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
Yes, Having Bipolar Disorder Is a Blessing.
I know what you must be thinking right about now, WTF is she possibly thinking? How could she consider this devastating disease that has taken so many lives a blessing. Well let me fill you in, first on why I agree with you.
I have been so low that I have attempted suicide twice and have walked the line between life and death. I have put myself in exceedingly dangerous situations trying to recreate a high that I was desperately seeking. I have made poor choices, devastating choices that have effected not only me but those who love me as well. I have cut, burned and scratched myself trying desperately to rid myself of overwhelming emotions that I could not release fast enough. I have wrecked havoc on my life and the lives of the people around me.
So why would I ever consider this a blessing? Because empathy, compassion, and love. I know what it feels like to be in those awful places and I have been able to help people because of my experiences. I’m learning to manage my illness, and with that comes an entirely new outlook on this illness, and others. Having bipolar disorder does not have to be a death sentence. But had I not been born this way, this wouldn’t be my life. I wouldn’t be standing for something, with so many others, making a difference.
To me it’s about perception now. I could go on about the things I’ve seen because of this illness, but again, that is my perception, not yours. I have loved deeper, hurt harder and wanted so fiercely that I have become overwhelmed with sensation. I feel my way through life and even though some of those feelings have been horrific, I wouldn’t give that up to live a logical unemotional life. It’s just not for me. I think we’re all a little mad, you just choose whether or not to embrace it. Bipolar Disorder is a part of what makes me who I am. It has given me gifts of creativity that I know I would not posses without it, and I am blessed.
Nicole is the owner of The Lithium Chronicles and the Facebook Page of the same name. She often blogs for The International Bipolar Foundation. She volunteers her time with the Canadian non-profit Partners for Mental Health, specifically on The Right By You campaign and is The Director of Operations for the most amazing non-profit ever: Stigma Fighters. You can find her on Twitter too.