Understanding and awareness are two powerful ‘tools’ on my journey in managing Bipolar disorder, I am fortunate to own them.
At the start of my journey, I have asked the sky, the trees, the One Up There ‘Why Me, Why am I ill mentally?’. Searching for the answers has been a futile endeavour, as the knowing is not a practical coping strategy for my Bipolar condition. Rather I have gotten enmeshed in a web of possible answers that makes me feel more lost and dejected, and the act of finding answers gives me a false sense that I had been problem-solving. This is not genuine understanding, the least for awareness.
Should I ask the question what causes Bipolar-disorder, I’m likely to find that there are several factors attributing to this physical yet invisible illness. Scientists explain that certain brain circuits and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) is responsible for the mood swings along the bipolar mood spectrum.A person like me either experience the high of hypomania (or mania) or the lows of mild to major depression. Genes and biological differences (significant physical changes in the brain) are the usual suspects (for almost all mental illness), and risk factors like stressful life events either develop or trigger the onset of Bipolar disorder. Seemingly I have a better understanding. So how now?
Admittedly I am curious about the concept of Understanding and its role in helping me manage my Bipolar condition. How much I understand as in having a sharper visual of the malfunction in brain circuits and neurotransmitter, gives me clarity. With this piece of information, I am more willing to accept the inevitability that I need medication (Thank Goodness there are medicine for this illness). For how long? Do I really need to know? With medication, I can function productively on a daily basis. That overwrites all other thoughts, perceptions, and biases.
With better understanding, I can differentiate recurring negative thoughts and energy consuming emotions from being the real me. In the past, I was misled into believing that I was always an angry person, not the least a grouchy one under the facade of Depression. I doubted my intentions, did I become mentally sick so that I could get attention and support, and also shirked off house cleaning tasks at home. Rather, I am able to say “Depression is not me”, what really happened was by-products of being ill with Bipolar-disorder. The understanding and the perception of myself gives me strength to move on, and be not in the dumps of depression.
Understanding opens the door to compassion. Knowing how impactful my life has been disrupted by the illness, and how much anguish, worthlessness, the “pain syndrome”, recklessness, the job opportunities I miss, this sense of injustice is intense. How am I going to reconcile and move on? Compassion is a gentle partner to my recovery. Have I not understood that these injustices I had lived with it for donkey years, is like the spilled milk, gone and irretrievable, I would have bolted my gate, close all windows, and sunk into a deeper and dangerous pit of depression and/or hypomania.
In the nutshell, this sympathetic awareness and tolerance of my intangible physical illness, understanding, like a key, has opened up the door to recovery. How it intersperses with awareness brings about countless “Ah Ha” moments, and serves me a strong, sturdy walking-stick on my journey. I am and will count my blessings.
In my next sharing, I will be writing on awareness, what exactly it is and how it helps me in managing Bipolar disorder. In the meantime, I will part with a question for you, “how does understanding serves you?” I hope it brings about “Ah Ha” moments, the point in time that let you understand yourself.