|Twenty Years Later ~ Looking Back,
It was Brian Kiley who wrote:
" I went to a bookstore today,
I asked the woman behind the counter
Where the self-help section was
She said, "If I told you,
That would defeat the whole purpose"
My experience with Bipolar Affective
Disorder has been much like that for the past twenty years, as I have struggled
to learn and understand the illness. The lady in the book store represents
the many brick walls I have run up against in my search, not only for knowledge
but for understanding, empathy and compassion.
My doctor gave me a bare bones description
of the disorder, and a vague prognosis all those years ago. He did
say that I was lucky that it was 1980~that even twenty years earlier, before
the advent of effective medications I would have been institutionalized,
probably for the rest of my adult life. He did not, could not, answer
my questions about what the future would bring. Fortunately for me
there was no crystal ball to predict the events that would follow.
If there had been I would have given up in defeat, never attempting to
fight the fight or win the battle.
Reading was a consummate passion
from the time I was able to put "Dick, Jane and Spot" together at the age
of four. I looked to books for everything and well remember the visits
to the local library every Saturday morning to choose five (the limit)
books to read during the following week. By Wednesday or Thursday
I normally had nothing left to read and was climbing the walls in anticipation.
Quite naturally I turned to books for more education about Bipolar Illness.
From medical encyclopedias, personal accounts, scientific journals, PDR's,
and anything I could find I gradually learned more about it. Remember
though, it was 1980. Bipolar Disorder was still a shameful and hidden
Mental Illness…it had not had its "coming out" and literature was scanty.
Today, books are readily available
from the easiest to read to the most scientific reports. With the
advent of the Internet, up to date information has become accessible almost
instantly. The internet offers not only information about the disorder,
but support in the way of bulletin boards, chat rooms and even on-line
psychiatrists! Oh, how I wish it had been available to me all those
In 1997 I got my first computer.
Several months later, barely accustomed to the computer itself, I decided
I had a message about Bipolar Illness I wanted to share. I had no
knowledge of HTML language at that time (what was that?) but step by step
I learned, and am proud of Bipolar World and my contribution to the Bipolar
Looking back I can see that it was
not until I became involved with support groups, both online and at the
local group, that I reached my forte. Meeting and talking with others
who shared the same disorder, understanding their pain, feeling the words
they were unable to speak, and sharing my experiences with them gave me
a sense of acceptance and contentment I had not experienced in a long while.
I must admit that support became and continues to be a selfish thing, as
it is me who grows with each experience.
Yes, I have been through hell and
back at the mercy of Bipolar Disorder. Could it have been worse?
My response is an unqualified "YES!" I have been most fortunate to
have the love and support of family throughout. My dad (poor dad-who
has lived with the effects of Bipolar Disorder for fifty (that's 50!) years
between my mom and me) has remained my strength, a staunch and loving support
throughout. My husband of nearly 31 years has stood beside me through
thick and thin, and my children, firmly supportive, treat me like
a "normal" mom. Thank God for these blessings. I have made
friends, mostly bipolar, who have given me hope and the will to go on.
I am fortunate indeed.
I have no idea what the future holds
in store for me. I no longer worry about it, nor do I want to know.
I have reached the point in my life and in the illness where I live each
day as it comes, rarely looking back despondently at the past and rarely
wasting time trying to predict the future. What will be will be,
and I do not have the power of control.
I do my part, taking medications,
keeping doctor appointments, cooperating with treatment plans, eating,
sleeping and exercising to keep my body well, and reducing harmful stress
in my life as much as possible.
I watch with great interest news
of new medications being discovered and new and effective treatment plans
being made operational. I read news of the genetic search for the
cause of Bipolar Illness, and pray for the scientists and researchers carrying
out the research. My vision of a cure for the illness at times dances
vividly in my mind as I think of all the individuals who might be spared
the agony many of us have been through. It may be too late to be
of benefit to me, but generations to come will never have their lives disrupted
by Bipolar Illness as mine has been.
I think of my grandson, eleven years
old, who has been diagnosed with the disorder and hope that wonderful discoveries
and great strides will be made in time to help him live a normal life.
I think of all the other children and adolescents, currently at the mercy
of moodswings, being magically cured by an injection like a smallpox vaccination
or a simple drug taken once daily. And my heart soars! It can
I look forward to the day when Bipolar
Disorder is no longer a source of shame and stigma. The day when
people realize we are valid and valuable individuals with an illness…not
an illness attached to a body. The day when, for every source of
stigma there is five of support! The day to rejoice.
In reality though, I know nothing
of what the future holds for any of us. Minds, much greater than
mine are unable to predict the effects Y2K might bring, and that is only
Peace can be achieved by living only
for the present. That has become my motto.
As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:
"Anyone can carry his burden, however
Anyone and do his work, however
hard-for one day
Anyone can live sweetly, patiently,
purely-until the sun goes down
And that is all life really means.
Some of us were unable to carry our
burden. Read my heart wrenching story in this event about my
friend Jeff, one who tried so hard…and was unable to make it.