It seems almost impossible that Bipolar Insights’ 13th anniversary is here. I remember well the first day I stood in front of the three individuals in attendance back then. I had no real expectations of what the future might hold. Shock and fear were my companions as I began this journey.
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Looking back over the years — the fear behind me — I marvel at my own personal growth as well as the strides of those attending Bipolar Insights’ regular meetings. We have grown from three members to 80-100 attendees each week.
I continue to have moments of feeling as if I should be doing more, reaching more, helping more and feeling that the task is too overwhelming. But these moments are fleeting, and each day I am filled with joy as I watch those whose lives have gone from chaos to balance.
I am aware that there are many people caught in bipolar’s cycle of upheaval who have not attended our group.
The question is, “Why are some people so reluctant to get help?”
Certainly there are many myths that surround bipolar disorder, but I think the truth is deeper than this. It is a misconception that someone with bipolar disorder consciously decides to make poor choices, lives in a manic state, and does not want help.
This is a shallow representation of the individual.
I have never met anyone who gets up in the morning and states, “Let me see what I can do today to totally destroy my life.” When bipolar episodes are not properly addressed, there are no conscious decisions — especially in terms of getting help.
Everyone must understand a valuable truth about bipolar disorder — when an individual is in an episode (mania or depression) — there are no choices.
That individual is being controlled by the disorder, and bipolar disorder is a pathological liar. The individual is not the liar; it is the disorder creating the false reality.
Therefore, we must look at the individual’s perception of reality, not ours. Once we look at the behavior, we must begin to look at the brain function to understand the illness.
For information on what causes bipolar disorder go to bipolar.about.com/cs/neurotrans/l/aa0007_msngrs.htm.
Please, understand I am not making excuses for bad behavior. I am saying that decisions are made in reality. Reality is achieved when an individual recognizes the destruction in their lives and wants something more.
This ability to have a functioning, non-chaotic life does not show itself while in a manic or depressive episode. It can only be visible through clarity of mind.
It is also important to recognize that an individual is not the disorder; the disorder is an illness one has.
All of us experience dysfunctional behavior such as learned behavior and coping skills, and those do have an effect on our decision-making. Every area of our lives is affected by what has happened to us. Each situation in life creates a bend in our journey that affects our emotions. Those bends and emotions affect our decisions.
Those who do not seek help will one day realize they need it. This includes all of us; many have not reached out for help when it was needed. That ability often takes time; it comes when we want more fullness in our lives.
The same applies to those who have bipolar disorder. Recognizing the need for help can occur within an individual — with or without bipolar disorder. We all walk at a different pace, and we need to respect each other’s tempo. When the time is right, seek help.
The co-founder and facilitator of Bipolar Insights, Marcia Rose, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meetings start at 7 p.m. on Monday nights at Green Valley Church, 3500 Missouri Flat Road, Room 304, Placerville and Tuesday nights at the Marshall Medical Health Library, 681 Main St., Suite 103, in Placerville. Visit bipolarinsights.com for details and further information.
Look for the 13th Anniversary banner over Main Street, July 25-30.