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When Having Bipolar Disorder Is Like a Juggling Act

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I have bipolar disorder. Please notice, I do not say “I am bipolar.” Because the sum of what and who I am is so much more than a simple chemical imbalance. What does it mean to have bipolar disorder? For me, it means I share the inside of my head with many different aspects of myself. There is Depression. There is Mania. There is Anxiety. And there is Stable. These are my ever-present companions. I perform miraculous juggling acts in order to keep them all in check. Strangely enough, each one has her own talents and special needs.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Depression writes in terse, sparse sentences. Salubrious, grey imagery of rainy days and dark skies. You want to be careful when you read depression. She can suck you in at a moment’s notice, even when you think you’re doing well.

Now Mania, she writes in long, flowing, beautiful streams of consciousness. Rainbows and waterfalls and pink unicorns. She inspires superhuman feats of strength. She can go for days without food or sleep. Mania does my best creative work. But beware the crash, because Mania can only last for so long, and when she goes back into hiding, Depression is more than happy to stick her head out and send in her ugly step-sister Anxiety.

Anxiety writes in short, nervous bursts. Worry, dread, shortness of breath, tightness of chest. The world speeding by too fast to even think about catching up. Anxiety keeps you awake nights writing poetry about useless worry and feelings of hopelessness.

And Stable…Stable doesn’t write much at all. Stable is the goal of all the medications I take.  She is…well, she’s even tempered, patient, beige. She’s not as creative, but she takes direction very well. She’s organized and well-dressed. She keeps things running smoothly.  But strangely enough, she’s also lonely. Lonely for intimacy, for laughter and craziness. For affection and art. For the little things in life that make it not only bearable, but enjoyable. Stable cruises through life with few noteworthy events, but she’s not lying awake nights writing hopeless poetry. She’s not performing feats of super human strength. Stable gets lots of sleep and plenty to eat.

The truth is, Stable pretty much runs my life. She keeps me doing all the important things that need to get done and she directs my daily actions. I guess in the long run, Stable is in charge of the whole crew. She’s the juggler who keeps all the balls in the air. She keeps the others in check. She makes sure my head doesn’t get smashed in the door. She keeps me from trying to run a marathon or play touch football. She helps me sleep at night when Anxiety would keep me awake. Stable loves me. All of me. And all of my different aspects.

And on good days, she melds them all seamlessly together to create a smart, sexy, confident woman who can handle whatever life throws at her.

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Originally published: January 19, 2016
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