Dealing with an Uncertain Future Due to Bipolar Relapse
Earlier I wrote about the realities involved in bipolar relapse and now I want to address the question as to how to plan for a future when relapse of bipolar disorder tends to hang over your head.
I understand this question and this uncertainty. It’s very hard to live with a disease like bipolar that you know can bite you any day, any time and often without any provocation. And it can be very hard to see yourself as a serious professional, with a 24/7 career, when you know that relapse is almost a certainty, at some point.
It’s trite to say that, “no one knows what the future holds for any of us.” It’s true, but it’s hardly helpful, and it’s unfair to compare the uncertainty that the average person faces (ie, I might be hit by a bus tomorrow) to the uncertainty that a person with bipolar faces when, in his case, bipolar relapse is very likely.
So how does one plan, or even make big life decisions, when bipolar relapse means an uncertain future?
Planning for an Uncertain Future with Bipolar
I think it’s important to be realistic when planning for the future. You need to take bipolar into account, yet not let it define every moment of your upcoming life. So, for example, if you want to be a doctor, you probably can’t be a 24/7 doctor that is on-call for surgeries every day. You might be able to, however, be a practioner of family medicine and have your own practice.
In other words, like my father always said, you can have anything you want you just can have everything you want. You can reduce the risk of bipolar relapse to the point where you sit on your couch and watch television all day (very low risk of relapse) or you can throw caution to the wind and involve yourself in a high-pressure, non-stop, stressful environment (and basically ensure your own relapse), but you can’t have both.
Planning for an Uncertain Future with Bipolar Relapse Means Give-and-Take
Myself, I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of a gal, so I would give some things up for bipolar, but not everything. I believe in goals and I believe in achieving goals but I also believe in building the pathway that suits you in order to get there. With bipolar disorder, you likely can’t take the path of you average, non-sick person, but that doesn’t mean that a path isn’t possible and that doesn’t mean that your goal isn’t possible, in the long run.
And it’s important to remember our goals change as we accept reality. For example, someone may really want to have their own, biological kids but, upon finding out that isn’t possible, she builds new dreams and goals for herself. The same is true of those with bipolar.
So when you plan for this uncertain life of yours – a life with endless possibilities – try to take bipolar into account, minimize your chance of relapse, watch for signs of a possible bipolar relapse, plan for what to do should relapse occur and still plan on successfully meeting your goals. The balancing act of all that is easier said than done, of course, but it’s just one of the challenges of being a person with an illness. It not easy or fair, but it’s what we’ve got.
And remember, if you live in fear of bipolar relapse that means always living in fear – and that’s no way to live at all. Be brave. Stand up. Gain perspective. You can do it.