Trouble is, bipolar disorder has stolen so many of my memories. It’s hard to visualize my life before my illness. It has taken over that much. I remember big picture things rather than details. For example, I know we were a happy family—my husband and two children. We did a lot of typical family stuff. We did them together. That means I actually participated in activities and outings. Once I was sick that didn’t happen often.
When I was diagnosed my children were only 11 and 6. My illness made a huge impact on my family, my marriage, my career and my life. When I was manic I wasn’t around much. I was out being busy—shopping, partying, working on projects or anything else that was an energy release. Unfortunately, little of that energy was spent at home.
When I was home, it was usually because I was depressed. And if I was depressed I was in bed. And I stayed there. Not moving for days, weeks, even months on end. My children became used to seeing me in that state. To them I was just sad. And it was sad. I missed out on so much—so did they.
But throughout it all, somehow I managed to instill in them my values and I was able to be there for them emotionally. Though I wasn’t able to do all the typical mothering type things like volunteering at school, going on field trips, driving them to friends’ houses, helping with homework, etc., etc., I did what I believe to be even more important. I nurtured them. I groomed them for life. I taught them unconditional love.
Before bipolar I actually had a life. I had friends. I had a career. I was a fun person to be around. I think I was happy. I was a companion to my husband in every way. We went out often. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot. We were very much a couple and had an active social life. That all changed. In addition to bipolar disorder, I struggle with general anxiety and social anxiety. That keeps me away from most things and most people.
In the time that has passed I’ve learned a lot about bipolar disorder. I have researched the subject beyond what you could imagine. I have applied much of what I have learned. And as the time has passed I have discovered better ways of coping and better ways of predicting and even preventing future episodes. I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle considerably. My life is now a fragment of what it used to be. But I’m okay with that. Most days.
In the ten years that have passed I’ve tried countless medications and even more combinations and doses. I’m probably in the best place I’ve been since this all started. But this illness does not rest and it does not stay the same. It changes with brain chemistry. It changes with situations. Even though my days are mostly good right now, I remain on guard knowing that my mood can fluctuate at a moment’s notice.
I’m not bitter. I don’t hate that I have bipolar disorder. It has taught me a lot. I has given me strength. There are many ways I can still find happiness. But any way you slice it, I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. My husband misses me. I miss me.