Living with Bipolar Disorder doesn’t define me. Maybe there was a time when it did a bit more. Early on. But nowadays, it’s just there; a part of life. Just like brushing your teeth or driving a car.
However, because of my Bipolar and because of how fast things can fall apart when I’m not well, I’ve had to develop some kick ass coping skill. And these individual skills, or qualities, have allowed me to realize the best parts of my life.
To keep my mind from racing, or to put it to good use when it is, I learn hobbies. The writing started long ago, I’ve found notebooks with old writing from the 3rd grade, and I was storytelling back then too. But aside from that, I’ve learned to knit, tile bathrooms, cook, paint, sing, install fencing, do electrical work, and build furniture.
When I needed more quiet in my life and less hustle, I learned to camp in the woods under the stars listening to the water break on shore by the lake. Although we have not successfully been camping since the arrival of our son, we hope to get back to this eventually. Camping with my wife and family has given me some of my best memories.
While I was looking for ways not to focus on my depression I started a gratitude journal. Everyday while I have my coffee I take a picture of the sunrise, and write down three things that I will do to make the day great, three things that I am grateful for, and one positive affirmation about myself. It has been invaluable in redirecting my negative thoughts.
When I needed to go off of all my medication in order to get pregnant I was scared. Terrified actually. But like with all things I do, I did my research. I read every book I could find about Bipolar and Pregnancy (which is not all that many). I met with three or four different doctors before I found one that would even begin to reevaluate what I was already taking (which was far too much) let alone work with me to possibly eliminate my medications for at least the first trimester.
Nonetheless we did find that doctor, and I did taper off of my medication under their supervision. During the year that I wasn’t taking any medication, running became extremely important to me. It allowed me to clear my mind first thing in the morning, or after a long day at work. I would repeat over and over as I was running “healthy mind, healthy body, healthy pregnancy.” My mind stayed well long enough for us to give it one hell of a try.
If it had not been for my bipolar though, we may have been able to keep trying, maybe we could have tried longer. We could have done different things with hormones that I was not wiling to risk when I was already having to use all of my might to control my emotions. Plus, I’m sure that my wife would disagree on how successful I was at that. Because of all of that, we now have our beautiful son. Not despite my bipolar, or despite our fertility issues, because of them. That one might not be a coping skill, but it is the greatest gift this life has ever given me.
So, you see, it’s not all bad. If right now, you are reading this thinking that things will never get better; they can and they do. You will get stronger. You have to in order to grow and move forward.