Bipolar Disorder: Lifetime Supply
I've heard the phrase "life sentence" thrown around a few times in reference to bipolar disorder - I've even used it a few times when things were looking bleak and I felt like there was no way out, but I've learned that it can actually be a damaging way of looking at things. “Life sentence” implies that your bipolar disorder is imprisoning you - taking away your rights, your happiness, your life, but I think if we learn coping skills and how to balance our daily lives as well as ways to recognize mood swings and dangerous behaviors, it doesn’t have to be a “life sentence.” It’s more of a lifetime supply.
If you went on a game show and you won a lifetime supply of your least favorite food, you would be disappointed. You did everything right to get on that game show and to win, and you wound up with a prize that you can’t even enjoy. What are you supposed to do with it? You get home, you get your delivery, and you hate it. You’re jealous of the other contestant who won a yacht, but after a while you discover you can use this food to help others - you can donate it, share it, cook with it and prepare meals for people you care about. It’s a lifetime supply of something that you don’t want, that you don’t need, that you find abhorrent, but it’s also a lifetime supply of giving to others.
For a lot of people with bipolar disorder, they spend their whole lives making decisions that they think will lead them down a successful path. I know for me that I felt I did everything right - honors student in high school with multiple extracurriculars, partial scholarship to college where I made the Dean's List.
I spent all of my time working for a successful future doing something I loved, and then all of a sudden my world was turned upside down, my mood became frenzied yet fragile, and my life had become a shell of what it once was. Of course you can't plan your whole life down to a t, but I thought I was at least on a good path. I was expecting a lifetime supply of success and happiness, and instead I got a lifetime supply of challenges, mood swings, and highs followed by repeated lows.
I realized, though, one day while crying and laughing hysterically at the same time, maybe my lifetime supply of unpredictability wasn't just a bad thing. My mom recorded my episode and I posted it online for people to see what I was going through in the hopes that they would be more understanding towards me, but what I got was a response from a different community of people - people with bipolar disorder who were relieved to see they were not alone.
When you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder or any other mental health disorder you’re given a unique opportunity to help others who are going through the same thing. You need to take care of yourself first and foremost, but even while testing treatment after treatment, and even when you're in the recovery phase you can be the support that someone else with the disorder needs. Not everybody has a supportive family or friends. When you reach out to someone, or listen to someone, or hug someone (pre and post-COVID) you are fulfilling one of the greatest duties that everyone on this earth has - helping someone else. Even if you're not doing well, reaching out to someone else to check on them can help your own mental health in addition to helping that person get through their day. Supporting others indirectly brings about others' support for you.
You may not like Spam or Red Vines or Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, but someone out there is in need of food, and you have the opportunity to feed them. Your life might not have turned out how you expected it to, but you could be someone else’s savior without even knowing it, and that’s a life worth living and a life worth being proud of.