Ninety percent of success is just consistently showing up.
I don’t know who said that, but it is a phrase my husband often uses, and it always makes me wince.
People need to know they can rely on you; and one problem bipolar disorder presents an inability to give that consistency.
We may show consistency some of the time – even for months at a time – but sooner or later the mania sets in, followed by the depression.
Mania and depression affect people differently. In mania, some do not sleep for days; become reckless with their spending habits; take risks they would normally avoid. My mania presents as boundless enthusiasm, a tendency to overcommit, and an irritating habit of talking non-stop. Before medication it was nasty and made life very difficult for my friends and family (see Bipolar Exploding Hedgehog: 26th October 2016). it is now, fortunately, much less severe.
The depression, in my experience of talking to others, presents more similarly; we retreat and withdraw from the world. Often, we cannot even get out of bed. If we manage to get up and get dressed, we cannot “People”. For all intents and purposes, we disappear.
This causes havoc in our personal and work lives: of course it does! We cannot be consistent.
I honestly think the only thing I have ever done reliably is write this blog every Wednesday; and I have no idea at all about how that has happened.
This inconsistency costs. It costs jobs, relationships and financial security; these costs in turn, contribute to the more well-known accompaniments to bipolar disorder, such as excess drinking, drug-taking, self-harming and suicide.
It’s hard to accept. This is not the way we want to be. “I just get so angry!” said a fellow sufferer the other day.
The other side of anger is grief; There is sorrow that this illness prevents from being who we want to be and doing what we love to do.
It’s taken a long time for me to accept my inconsistency, especially in the last couple of years since the medication. I hoped the tablets would be a silver bullet and that I would be entirely well but that has not happened.
Nope – I still have bipolar disorder and I still have the symptoms. They are milder than before: they are no longer life-threatening; no longer threaten my health, family, and friendships but they still present and I still cannot promise consistency.
The answer is to manage expectations, I suppose. My directors and fellow colleagues in the company know about it; my family and friends know about it. While I do not always name the condition, I let my clients know I am subject to periods of “Ill health.”
It’s not what any of us want but it’s what we have.
If we accept it, we can work with it instead of fighting a battle we can never win.
A harsh truth, perhaps, but maybe a useful one.
A Moodscope member.