When diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one is presented with a list of symptoms that represent mania or depression. The variations from one individual to another are minimal — depending on the type of bipolar: Bipolar 1 (mostly manic with little depression), Bipolar 2 (mostly depressed with little mania), or Bipolar Disorder (mania and depression cycles).
A diagnosis explains the characteristics of mania and depression along with the types of medications that are needed to manage the cycles.
What’s missing from this diagnosis is you, specifically your life. Who are you? What does your life look like? What is your story? You become invisible and hidden by the disorder.
The process of visibility begins with a question. “What are you struggling with?”
Common responses are: “I don’t trust, I’m afraid, I am isolated, detached and angry.”
The next question is, “Why?” Each week I watch the faces before me, I can almost read their minds. They are unable to understand why they feel as they do and don’t have the ability to sort through all the emotions. Often they blame the source of all their problems on bipolar disorder.
We recognize the symptoms and acknowledge medications will help manage bipolar disorder.
What is it we do not know about this person? What did their life look like? Have they been abused, controlled, physically or sexually assaulted? Were they ridiculed, made fun of as a child, abandoned or rejected?
Lack of trust, fear, isolation, detachment and anger do not surface from a healthy, loving childhood. These defenses are produced out of pain and used as tools to cope with the excruciating pain hidden deep inside.
With each passing year the pain increases, the person continues to hide and then they disappear. They don’t tell; they blame themselves. They bury the assault on their lives and slowly disappear, birthing the illusion of who they are through fear and isolation.
Each of us is made up of many parts: personality, cultural and religious beliefs, dysfunctional behaviors and illness.
It is unfair to see only a part of a person, as all areas have an influence.
The most difficult area of dealing with bipolar disorder is not knowing who you are, being unable to distinguish between the disorder, dysfunctional behaviors, cultural and religious beliefs.
Abuses or other factors often interfere with the ability to manage the disorder. An example would be: when assaulted, we lose control. Someone has inflicted pain on us and taken away our power. As an adult we protect ourselves by vowing, “No one will ever control me again, no one will tell me what to do.”
In that moment, we lose the ability to hear and accept help. We begin to reject the guidance offered to us.
I encourage each person to continue to attend Bipolar Insights and state each week, “You must journal to achieve balance.” My words are rejected and clouded by the pain of the past. Their decisions are made based on a child’s defense.
This defense is what helped us to survive through the suffering. Now as we face tomorrow we can begin to understand that we no longer need to protect from the past but rather to embrace today and our future.
A very wise therapist once said to me, “I don’t want you to tear down the wall you have built to protect yourself, I just want you to peek over.”
When we understand the continual power of the past, we can rise up, and say, “No more,” move toward healing of our hearts and minds, recognize the help offered, and apply it to our lives.
You are not bipolar disorder; you are not only one facet but rather a multitude of wonders.
Come and visit us, this is just the beginning … hold my hand … we will do this together. Ready … peek over.
The co-founder and facilitator of Bipolar Insights, Marcia Rose, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Weekly meetings start at 7 p.m., on Monday, at Room 304, Green Valley Church, 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, and on Tuesday at Marshall Medical Health Library, 681 Main St. in Placerville. The fee is $5 per person. Check bipolarinsights.com for complete details and further information.