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What Stability Feels Like After Bipolar Disorder

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I have been stable for a few years now and let me tell you, it’s great. But not without its problems.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

First, the good stuff. I’m now able to go out of the house more than once or twice a month. In fact, I just went to a weekend-long convention where there were plenty of people and noise, ordinarily two of my triggers. (I still don’t know if I could handle Chuck E. Cheese.) This was a gathering that, although it was attended by hundreds of people, was host to a good many old friends and featured some excellent music.

While at the convention, I experienced one of my more upsetting physical symptoms of stress (the less said, the better). Although it did distress me, I didn’t freak. I dealt with it and went on to enjoy the rest of the convention. I didn’t retreat to my bed and miss the rest of the fun. In earlier times, I would have.

I have more spoons per day. This is a good thing, as now I have a job four days a week, two blogs and assorted other writing to do, including completing my next book. (It should be available later this year.) During the aforementioned convention, I did have to sit and rest on occasion, but I did not have to miss hours at a time owing to a nap attack. I seem to be able to get by on eight or so hours of sleep per night, rather than 10 or 12. And I can almost always get to sleep by midnight.

My creativity and emotions are not blunted. My confidence is up. I can push myself a little bit to accomplish things. I can feel satisfied, content and happy. And I do, especially today.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Bipolar disorder is still with me. It’s a part of me. An influence on perhaps every part of my life, not excepting my stability. I am not “cured.” I live with bipolar disorder every day of my life, even if it affects my daily life less than it used to.

To maintain my hard-won stability, I must take medications…every day. Personally, I don’t mind this, but I know there are those who would disagree with me. Finding the right combination of psychotropics and dosages took literally years to determine, and I know enough not to stop taking them simply because I “feel better.” As far as I’m concerned, daily medication is a small price to pay for relative stability.

I say “relative” stability because I know that at any time, this stability could desert me. I’ve been fooled before by good feelings that disastrously disappeared when the stressors became too great or my brain glitched again, or whatever. That chasm is still out there waiting for me and, to mix my metaphors, I keep having to look over my shoulder at the possibility that it will catch up with me.

I also say “relative” stability because I cannot deny that I’m still a fair distance from functioning “normally” in the “normal” world. In addition to my meds, I still need — indeed, could not do without —the help of my husband, who is my anchor. Alone, I would be much more likely to succumb to the evil influences that beset my brain. I still have symptoms, though I find them manageable and not too intrusive on my life. I tell myself that everyone has problems and limits. Mine may be different, but they are eminently survivable. Even livable.

The fact is, though, that I may say I’m stable, but that comes with a big “for now.” I know the nature of this disorder, and the fact that it may come roaring back despite anything I can do to allay or prevent it.

But for now, I am stable, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. And that is a victory, even if it’s not a guarantee.

Photo credit: Jub Job/Getty Images

Originally published: June 14, 2019
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