Here is a summary of my 10 Upsides of Bipolar, which was published on celebrity Niall Breslin’s A Lust for Life website. I was also interviewed on Dublin City FM.
As I walked the road of recovery, I began to realise how Bipolar Disorder actually graced my life. Here I share my blessings with you.
1) Empathy: Commonly referred to as ‘putting yourself into another’s shoes’, empathy is a classic bipolar gift. Since I have experienced the full range of human emotions, from the depressive lows to the manic highs – I can imagine being in the shoes of another who is low, high, or anything in between. Similarly, my thoughts have mirrored my expansive feelings, and so if a person’s thoughts are racing, for example, then I can usually relate to or imagine their reality.
2) Creativity: When bipolar started to surface, I took up the pen to write. I journaled my thoughts and feelings, and it became clear that my mind had plenty to say. I wrote down an experience of meditation: a perfect picture of kind eyes gazing upon me, like a womb of love encircling me. Moreover, I blogged, wrote short stories, and dabbled in novel writing. And I imagine connecting with brave people who live out this condition with great dignity. Continue reading
As I experienced the full range of human emotions with bipolar, I learned quite quickly when to stay with emotions and when to move on, to pick myself up if needed. For example, I felt sad after experiencing a rift with my house mates. In the company of my friend, I stayed with my sadness and I was quiet and low in energy. I was OK being in this state. And eventually my mood naturally lifted. Other times, I asked my friend questions and smiled. To change my environment can be wise too, such as going for an ocean swim.
Accept the reality of the situation
Walter J. Ciszek S.J. was a Jesuit priest who lived through 23 years of Russian prisons and labour camps. I read his book He Leadeth Me and the most profound part for me was that he learned to accept “the reality of the situation”. For him, this meant facing every moment as a prisoner with openness and opportunity. For me, this meant fully accepting my bipolar tendencies and circumstances. I got caught up with anger and frustration trying to fight off my extreme moods. Real change came about the more I said “Yes” to bipolar and “Yes” to my reality. I’m still tempted to reject situations but I am mindful of the wise thing to do. Continue reading
“Hope is not deceptive” – Romans 5:5
My state of unemployment is a perfect opportunity to harness that inbuilt capacity to be hopeful. I finished a 6 month contract last Friday as a civil servant and what a fruitful time it had been. It was the first major “normal” test for me since being diagnosed with bipolar.
I worked full days: kept to deadlines; adapted to the needs of colleagues; and fit the role of a normal employee. Reasonable accommodations were provided for me, for example, time off for medical appointments and additional short breaks to regulate my stress levels. After a while, my disability essentially disappeared as reflected by a comment from my manager: “To be honest, Gavin, your disability was not an issue”. Continue reading
I remember being alone in the dark. I came to an enormous tree, looked up, and felt an awe overcome me. I was suddenly put in my place and felt great respect for this force of nature. And that helped me to tap into humility.
My mental health turned for the worse this week, and well I became only too aware that my good health is not always in my hands. The seasonal cold; the high stress of Christmas; the reminder of being single all have an impact. But sometimes, no matter my efforts to be functional, I have to submit to the unpredictable nature of my illness. Continue reading
How does a shoot spring from the stump? How does a person with a drug addiction become clean? How do you get through your own disasters to reach a deep sense of peace? That’s what resilience does.
What life throws at me
At present, I am faced with the possibility of another period of unemployment. And for those who have been unemployed, it’s not an easy situation. However, I have a burning desire to write – I finished a first draft of a screenplay just yesterday. Writing may not solve the financial problem of unemployment but it will help reduce the boredom. Continue reading
I am an emotionally intelligent person with bipolar. Measured by EQ, emotional intelligence is about our experience of self and social.
I have grown a lot in the area of self. In my emotional battles, I called out for help…and more often than not, I turned to my inner strength and inner awareness. I first asked myself the question, “how am I feeling?” – there are differences between emotions and feelings but I will treat them as the same here. I felt happy, sad, angry, joyful, confused, and so on.
So I became aware of my emotions which centred me to some degree. In my awareness, I asked myself, “what will I do?” Often the action involved writing in my diary and I loved to dabble my pen in a random stream of consciousness. I pondered what good things to do: walk in the sun; stay away from my computer; mix with my friends; and read a book. Continue reading
Over the last few weeks, I have scored average to above average on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well Being Scale, and my psychiatrist has confirmed that I am “stable”. These assurances have strengthened my belief that I am mentally healthy.
Can you really believe that bipolar has graced me with good mental health? Let me bring you back only a few years to when I was undiagnosed and very unhealthy. I couldn’t even sit in silence for 5 minutes; my mind was just so noisy and scary; and not even my identical twin knew the extent of it. Now, I dare to say that I am more mentally healthy than much of the general public – me with a mental illness! Continue reading