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If I Could Take Away My Bipolar Disorder, Would I?

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I have come across variations of this question a lot, the basis of which is that if I could rid my past, present and future of my bipolar disorder, would I do it?

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I always thought that my answer would be an immediate yes. If I could get rid of this lifelong illness and take away the crushing depressions and destructive manias, of course I would. If I could get back the things my illness has taken away from me, if my illness wasn’t there to make my life so hard, why wouldn’t I want that? Why would I want to hang on to the battle with medications and treatment, their debilitating side effects, the risk of me hurting myself during bad periods, the wanting to not be alive, the past suicide attempts and the memories of things I have done when I wasn’t myself and the illness took over — why on earth would I not want to be rid of those things? I always thought I would say, “Of course I would take all of those things away!”

But then I sat down and actually thought fully about the question and imagined what my life would be without my bipolar disorder. Yes, I would have been spared a lot of struggles and hard times, but there are also a lot of things I would not have gained. Without my mental illness, would I have become the strong, determined warrior I am today? Would I have learned to be nonjudgmental and developed my strong burning desire to help others as much as I can? Would my family and I have learned to communicate the way we do, which my illness has forced us to do? Would I have met my husband and soulmate, who is the single most joyful and important thing in my life, without the journey I took with my illness making me the person I was when I met him, and without the series of events (related to my illness at that time) leading me to find him? Would I be so grateful and appreciative for every single good thing I have in my life?

Would I feel so deeply? Would I make the most of every happy moment and squeeze as much into them as possible, the way I do now? Would I have built my little business, making jewelry with positive messages to help others with struggles, which means the world to me, without the experiences I have had to inspire it? Would I have developed the confidence in myself I have now, that helps me deal with anything and know it’s OK to be proud of exactly who I am?

Would I have learned who my true friends and family are, those who have stood by me no matter what and who make my life so blessed and fulfilled? Would I be the person I am today, who I am so proud to be, without all of those experiences and without my bipolar disorder? I don’t believe any of those things would have happened without my illness. I don’t believe that I would be the person I am today, without what I have been through.

So when I really think about it — and perhaps somewhat controversially — and definitely shockingly to myself at least, my answer would be no.

No, I would not take my bipolar disorder away if I could.

Originally published: June 28, 2016
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