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4 Compromises I Make Because of My Bipolar Disorder

Having any sort of mental illness can take a large toll on your life, and the longer you live with it, the more you learn there are a number of compromises and sacrifices you have to make in order to maintain stability sometimes.

Here are some of the compromises I have to make because of my bipolar disorder:

1. Medication and side effects

Medication can be the backbone of treating some psychiatric disorders. And while beliefs on the topic are widespread, I am of the opinion that for those like myself with bipolar disorder, medication is one of the best approaches to treatment. I have tried natural approaches — diet, exercise, yoga, etc. And while these may seem like they are working for a little, the cyclical nature of my disease rears its head and it eventually all comes crashing down (or up) for me.

Medication has been the only thing that has ever given me consistent positive effects in regards to my cycling. However, that isn’t to say it doesn’t have a downside. In order to keep myself balanced, I must compromise the medication for its ugly side effects. The sedating effects of my medication mean I feel permanently tired. Getting up for work every day is not an easy feat and even on my days off, I find myself setting an alarm for midday otherwise I won’t wake up. Like many, I take my medication before bed so it kicks in right before I go to sleep. Restless leg syndrome is one of the less fun side effects that happen as I am trying to fall asleep. My body spends most of the night fighting between the sedation and the constant urge to wriggle, toss and turn because my legs feel like they are in physical pain if they are still. Then there are the fun antidepressants my doctor prescribed me to self-administer occasionally, but if taken too often or for too long, can trigger a manic episode which can be just as bad.

2. Work

Money makes the world go round, so sadly for most of us, work is a mandatory part of life. The past few years while dealing with my diagnosis and trying to hide my struggles, I have been hit hard in the career department. At the age of 25, I have started over a few times, which doesn’t sound too bad, but when it has been because of something that is out of your control, it can be pretty devastating. But my problem was that I was working toward a career I had such little interest in, in a company I was pretty miserable in, all for a pretty hefty paycheck I thought was the most important thing at the time. I was 22 and sacrificing my health for money. When your brain is fighting you and telling you you’re miserable and worthless constantly, you can’t then go to work, where you spend the majority of your time, and feel the same way. This is how you break. I am under no impression everyone in the world loves what they do and has found their passion — some work to support themselves and their families and work to live, not live to work. I have found this is not something I am capable of. So here I am at 25, working for minimum wage, but in a job I am damn good at, with people who are aware and supportive of my condition. I have started at the bottom, looking to work my way up in an industry I am passionate about so one day I can have a career I enjoy and a job I am happy to wake up for every day. I cannot compromise and do something that makes me miserable simply for a good paycheck. 

3. Relationships

Ah, the age-old drama. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy finds out girl has a psychiatric disorder, boys dumps girl on her ass for being too “high maintenance.” A tale as old as time. So the beginning of a new relationship begs the question, “do I tell them?” I have had relationships where I found myself lying and saying I was sick or had plans, when really I just needed to be at home in bed alone for a few days. Or relationships where I haven’t taken my medication because I wanted to be able to have a normal night’s sleep when I was with them. But as I got older, I learned I was compromising my health for the sake of some guy liking me and not thinking I was too much work. Let me let you in on a little secret I have learned recently — if they can’t accept you for who you are, the good, the bad, the ugly, they probably aren’t the person for you.

I admit it sucks to be made to feel that way, because what a lot of guys don’t realize is, I can take care of myself — I have been doing it for a long time. I am not some damsel in distress, I don’t need to be rescued, I am entirely self-sufficient. In fact, this probably makes me one of the most low maintenance people you will ever date. But the best advice I can give is do not compromise your health, or your truth, for someone else. This one person may not accept it, but I promise there are plenty of people out there who will. So, sadly sometimes one of the compromises I do have to make is being single. But guess what? I enjoy spending time with myself — I am delightful.

 4. Time

Now this one is just as much of a compromise for my friends and family as it is for me. I am extremely aware I am quite selfish with my time. And I am learning that as guilty as I feel, it is a necessary evil. Some people in your life are not going to understand this and that’s OK — we all have to learn to be patient with each other. There have been many times where people have wanted to catch up and I am in bed for days, or I have had to cancel on drinks with the girls because I can feel a manic episode coming on. Sometimes the rapid cycles can confuse and frustrate people. When my friends see me on social media one day having a blast, and then having to cancel on them the next day because of a down period, I can understand how that can look to some. And trust me, I have been guilt-ridded on more than one occasion for missing birthdays, friends coming in from out of town, family events, etc. But sometimes you have to be selfish with that time and put your health ahead of these things. Personally, I know a night of drinking can often lead to days of depression when I am already not feeling well, so it is important to recognize when you need to be alone.

Life is about compromising, but the most important thing is that we aren’t jeopardizing our health. It can be hard to find a balance, but it is important to make sure we are doing what is best for ourselves to make it through. At the end of the day, survival is key.

Unsplash image by Sarah McCutcheon