How Bipolar Disorder Has Changed Me for Life

How Bipolar Disorder Has Changed Me for Life

Bipolar disorder has changed me forever. When I was first diagnosed with a mood disorder, they said this wouldn’t happen. When I was first diagnosed with a mood disorder, they said I would go back to who I was before it started. When I was first diagnosed with a mood disorder, every question they asked what about comparing my medicated self to my old self. But they were wrong and their questions were irrelevant, bipolar disorder has changed me for life and no medication is going to change that.

‘Letting’ Bipolar Change Your Life

Some people say they “refuse to let an illness change them.” Well, okay, bully for them. I might suggest that their version of bipolar disorder isn’t nearly as severe as some. Because when severe bipolar rolls in, wreaks havoc with your life and changes the structure of your brain, change is not your choice – change is the reality. I will never be the person I was before bipolar disorder.

This feels like bad news for many people. And, to some extent, it certainly is. It’s natural to mourn the old you. It’s natural to mourn a life that no longer is. It’s natural to mourn our old goals and dreams when we realize that bipolar has changed our lives forever. But it’s bad news you can get over.

Because, as trite as it sounds, when the door of your old life slams shut, the door of your new life creaks open. And while you will never be the same as your pre-bipolar you, you will be a version of you that can be just as great.

Bipolar disorder has changed me forever. I will never by my pre-bipolar self. I've mourned this, but bipolar changing me for life wasn't all bad.

How Bipolar Changed My Life

For me, bipolar disorder made everything harder and more brutal. It took me so much longer to get a degree. Working was so much more of a challenge. Doing what I wanted (like socializing and skydiving, [yes, I know, odd]) was plagued by fear, anxiety, fatigue, a need for sleep, medication side effects and so much more. It felt like trying to sprint through glue. And bipolar disorder made it so much harder to have relationships with people – intimately and not. It produced messes from the hypomanic times and loads of undone necessities from the depressed times. And others can say that bipolar disorder played a huge part in divorce, bankruptcy and so much more. When I say bipolar disorder wreaks havoc with a life, I really, really mean it.

And that was all in the early days. In the early days where the illness was a shadow of what it is today. Today it’s worse in many ways. I will never go back to the woman who found life so damn easy.

Bipolar Disorder Change Me Forever – But Not All in Bad Ways

While I will never be the pre-bipolar girl again, and, at this point, I barely remember her, I can say that I have gained since bipolar took over, too. I have gained greater empathy. I have gained a writing career. I have gained an appreciation for the little things that make me smile. I have gained courage and the strength to fight something that is trying to kill me every day of my life.

So the doctors were totally wrong. And doctors are wrong to promise, or even suggest, that people can go back to their pre-bipolar selves. But what they should focus on is what while bipolar disorder will change you for life, it doesn’t mean that it is the end of everything. I still have goals. I still have friends. My kitties still love me. I still have a life.

What I’m saying is that people shouldn’t feel bad, or incomplete, or a failure because they can’t ever get back to their pre-mentally ill self. That is a reality of a serious mental illness. It’s not because of you. It’s because of the illness. And while this isn’t “okay” per se. It is just one of a myriad of things that can change a person for life. It’s kind of a sucky one. But it’s just one. And there is still a you after a serious mental illness. And the new you, while new and still learning to walk, is still you and can still be meaningful and wonderful.

Banner image by Amman Wahab Nizamani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Image by Filckr user BK.


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.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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