Bipolar – It’s Never Going to Be What You Expect It to Be
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a life with bipolar it’s this: it’s never going to be what you expect it should be.
I was watching a television show about gluten-free baked goods and on it, a gluten-free chef said of gluten-free bread, [when compared to bread with gluten,] “it’s never going to be what you think it’s going to be, so one of the things you should do is to try to adjust your expectations.”
Now, I don’t know anything about gluten-free bread, but I do know about a life with bipolar and I have to say, in my experience, it’s never going to be what you expect it should be and you should probably learn to adjust your expectations so it doesn’t taste quite so bad when you bite into it.
A Bipolar Life Compared to a Life without Bipolar
I have to say, I never thought life was going to be like this. Never, in my wildest nightmares did I think I’d have to live a life with this many bad days. Of course, right now I’m six weeks into depressive hell, so it all feels worse than maybe, logically, it should, but what I know is that the bad days with bipolar are impossibly bad. The people around me without bipolar? They have no idea what actual pain is. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that what the average person experiences on a daily basis doesn’t touch what I live through all the time.
My Pre-Bipolar Life
Now, my pre-bipolar life was a very long time ago, but what I remember is thinking that my life would not be a pain-filled cesspool of hell. Some of my expectations were probably reasonable (like having a happy life) and some of them probably weren’t. But what did I know of such things; I was 19 years old.
Expectations of a Life with Bipolar
And even today I struggle with what my expectations of life should be. I still have that expectation of a “happy life.” Not an every-day-is-a-mosey-through-the-lilies kind of a thing, but a regular, everyday, bumpy, but happy, life.
And after all this time and all this pain and all this illness and all this bloody bipolar, I still haven’t learned to adjust that expectation.
I still expect to wake up and the pain not to be there. I still expect to wake up and make it through the day without suffering and tears. I still expect to make it through the day without physical and mental anguish. I still expect to have normal emotional responses to life.
But maybe like the gluten-free chef said, what I need to do is to learn to adjust my expectations.
Adjusting Expectations of a Bipolar Life
And, actually, my doctor has really told me as much. He has told me it’s never going to be good for me. I’m too treatment-resistant. I’m too far gone. I’m too sick. Life is going to hurt. Accept that.
But I just can’t.
This morning I’m having a ridiculously exaggerated emotional response to a television show I watched. Long story short, I cried and cried and couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t stop feeling some deep, personal agony. It is the most ridiculous thing, logically. I know in all my mind’s crevasses that nothing real has happened and that I need to stop feeling this way. But if there’s one thing I know it’s that feelings don’t change just because we want them to. We choose a lot of things in life but how we feel isn’t one of them.
And maybe, just maybe, if I accepted the fact that my days will be ruined by seemingly innocuous stimuli and emotional patterns that are out of my control, maybe it would be less soul crushing.
Not Adjusting Bipolar Life Expectations
Or, then again, maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe adjusting expectations is what stops people from fighting this horrible disease. Maybe accepting the suffering would remove the hitch from my giddy up and just make me lie down and die. I just don’t know.
Balancing Expectations about a Bipolar Life
I suppose it comes down to balance. I think you have to accept certain painful truths that will never go away if you have a serious case of bipolar disorder and yet still fight for something better. Somehow you have to accept destroyed, pointless, life-wasting days and agonizing, tear-stained nights and still seek the treatment that will lessen the pain. Somehow you have to do both. It’s less of a balancing act and more of a magic trick, but you still have to do it.
And in saying that, I feel a tiny bit calmer. I give myself a weensy break and understand that today, by 11:00 a.m., the day may already be a total write-off and there might be nothing I can do about that.
But I still have a psychiatrist’s appointment next week, and I’ll still go, and I’ll still try for something different. Because while life may never being what I think it should be, I know the bipolar symptoms have to get better than this.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.