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Why I'm Choosing to Love Both My Manic and Depressed Selves

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My version of bipolar causes me to cycle between moods. A manic episode may only last an evening, then flip to depression the next morning. Sometimes depression lasts for weeks, sometimes only a day. Before I started medications, I had depressive episodes that lasted years and manic episodes that lasted months. Now that I’m on medication, my mood swings don’t last nearly as long and aren’t as severe. But I still cycle. My record is 15 mood states in 10 days.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Part of my struggle with cycling is that I don’t like the person I am when I cycle. I don’t like my depressed self. I don’t like my manic self. I try to control each self, deal with the episode and pray it ends soon. I know ways to deal with depression and mania. I have lots of coping skills.

But today it occurred to me — when I say that “I don’t like my depressed self or manic self,” I am saying that I don’t like me. I have bipolar disorder. I cycle. Those selves are still part of me.

I decided today I needed to find a way to love each version of me.

So today, I choose to love my depressed self. She is strong. Her arms, legs and body have turned to lead, but she still drags her body out of bed and out the door. She makes decisions thoughtfully and carefully. She bravely meets with people, even though forcing words out of her mouth and grouping them in sentences takes effort. Every movement and every word she speaks is earnest. Her eyes reveal the depths of her struggle. At home she cries, and there is beauty in her tears, in the pain that she feels and in her yearning for it to end.

I look at my depressed self and my heart aches for her. I wish I could tell her things will get better, that it will all end. But with the pattern of my mood swings, I don’t know how long the depression will last.

I look at her now. I love the way she tilts her head to the side and how every word passing from her lips is intentional. I love the methodical way she counts failures and victories and takes pride in dishes, laundry and making it through a day of work.

Today I also chose to love my manic self. She is vivacious and exciting, full of creative thoughts and ideas. Possessing an electric energy, she lives in the moment and experiences life in exquisite intensity. She is brave. Her heart is open to the world and all that it has to offer.

I know my manic self well. I know that the heady rush of emotions in mania comes with a price: blurting things out I shouldn’t say, making poor decisions, acting bizarrely and scaring people; taking risks and getting hurt. My manic self has gotten herself into a lot of trouble. But how much can I fault her? It is her nature to be impulsive. She is managing her impulses and moods the best she can. Today I choose to see beauty in her wildness.

Today I tell my manic self, you are beautiful. The way your eyes sparkle, the zigzag patterns of your speech, the way you tell everyone your secrets. You are something like a child who struggles to censor your speech or movement. You are something like a woman who is bold, seductive and exciting. You sink your teeth into the joys of life and see endless possibilities in every open door. If the door is closed, you are not afraid to knock.

I hear people say they enjoy mania. I never do. I feel out of control, and many times, I have done things I regretted later. And for me, mania always builds at a feverish pace to a devastating crash into depression. The cycle is awful.

But as someone with bipolar, cycling is part of my reality. Today I choose to stop being ashamed of my depression or mania. Today I choose to stop being hateful towards these parts of me.  Today I decide to accept all of my selves, affirming my identity at each stage of my bipolar and promising to find beauty and strength in my manic and depressed selves. I deserve to be loved in every stage of my illness. Today I choose to love all of my selves.

Thinkstock photo via Electra-K-Vasileiadou

Originally published: October 5, 2017
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