Taming the Beast that is Bipolar by Accepting your Illness
Saturday, June 4, 2011

According to Web Md, bipolar disorder is a serious life long mental illness that affects about 5.7 million Americans.  

 

By Marybeth Smith
TNCP Guest Writer

Walt Disney put it best with the line,

“For who could ever learn to love a Beast?”

But someone did love the Beast. That someone tamed him and showed him all the great things about himself and made him realize that being a Beast did not define WHO he was. It was just a condition under which he lived his life. Once he accepted this, his entire life changed.

For anyone who has Bipolar Disorder, there is no doubt about the fact that Bipolar is a Beast (and/or another five letter word starting with B). Having this illness can take everything from us while leaving us to rot in a place which does not hold even the tiniest bit the glamour compared to an abandoned castle, unless we're talking about the dark and desolate dungeon where only a key can open the door to ease your despair.

And who could love that?

This may come as a shock, but over the past three years, I've learned to appreciate my illness and am even thankful for it. Without Bipolar, I would NOT be the person I am today. How did I become this person? Well it all started with one tiny little word …

Acceptance

For years, I suspected I might have bipolar disorder. I was treated for ADHD as a child and later graduated to the fantastic realm of depression. By the age of 17, I was in weekly therapy sessions and was prescribed an antidepressant. It took almost 10 years for me to finally admit that an antidepressant alone was just not getting the job done.

As for many of us with Bipolar Disorder, I inevitably crashed and ended up in the hospital. It was there that I was finally honest with the doctors and it was there that I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II. I no longer had a choice; I had to acknowledge my illness and learn to accept it or I would find myself well acquainted with the staff and doctors at said hospital.

Acceptance did not come easy. Instead I dropped all hints of denial and picked up our good friend, Shame. Well, maybe not good friend, more like frienamy. I toted Shame with me to family functions, to events with friends and even ended up quitting my job because I just couldn't let Shame go.

Then something happened. I tip-toed my way past Shame, baby steps of course, and began telling people. First I told my family, expecting their disappointment and accusations of being a failure. But that's not what I got.

My parents were happy to have the answers and to watch me receive the proper treatment.

My siblings showed little to no signs of surprise and less judgment than anticipated.

The friends I still had were unconcerned. I was still me, still the person they'd been friends with before my diagnosis.

THEY accepted my illness before I did. Some even embraced the diagnosis, because now I could start managing my symptoms. THEY didn't even bother to let Shame in. Shame sat on the doorstep, waiting for me, but I did not return.

Shame was banished and I there was only one thing left to do: I had to accept the fact that I had Bipolar Disorder. I had to admit to myself that having a mental illness did not define who I was; it was just a condition standing on the sidelines. All I needed to do was keep it under control. If I could tame the ferocity of my symptoms, I could become an even better me, and that was an idea I could accept without hesitation.

Slowly I began telling others about my having Bipolar Disorder. Like before, the reactions exceeded any and all expectations I had. I'd gather the courage to admit I had a mental disorder and suddenly people were coming to me for answers. Their sons, brothers, and uncle's monkey had Bipolar and they wanted my opinions on it, like I was an expert or something.

Suddenly my world had changed. I didn't turn into a handsome prince or anything like that, but the heavy coat of shame had disappeared and I could be the person I was before my diagnosis. I could be me, only better.

Though the Beast still rears its ugly face from time to time, I am able to remember that I am not the Beast. I am still me. People still love me, despite any and all symptoms I might experience. I'm no longer trapped in a dungeon. Instead, I am perched at the balcony overlooking all the beautiful and wonderful things I failed to notice while giving the Beast total and utter control over who I was.

The Beast has been tamed and I have indeed become a better me. I run a website teaching others about and answering questions regarding Mental Illness. I am going to college to major in psychology. I am a person that I never knew existed. I have dreams and goals and aspirations. And although I might get a visit from depression and hypomania from time to time, I am able to remind myself that it's okay. It's not my fault, and it WILL subside.

Marybeth Smith is a perpetual perfectionist living out her daily life as an imperfect mother of three little ones. In 2010, she founded the websitewww.askabipolar.com, where she and a group of authors suffering from bipolar disorder answer reader’s questions about mental illnesses. In her spare time she writes, blogs and designs websites. She is currently working to publish her most recent novel, Fall Girl, and hopes that one day, through this novel and her website; she will be able to help bring an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

To learn more about Marybeth visit www.marybethsmith.com orwww.askabipolar.com. You can contact her via email atmarybeth@askabipolar.com.

June 5, 11 - June 18, 11 Edition

 

 

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