Though I’m not much of a fan of the telephone—a fact that has been well-documented here—I actually had a 2 1/2-hour conversation yesterday with a good friend from across the country. Now, this friend and I have never met face-to-face, but we have definitely bonded heart-to-heart; we got to know each other on a nursing website where we once were both moderators, and have been friends for about ten years now. She suffers from depression and is part of my small Facebook support group, but she is also one of the people who truly “gets” me—bipolar and all—and talking with her is like opening a much-loved book and settling in for a good read.
During this conversation, the topic of said disorder came up on several occasions, and it was an eye-opener to hear her perspective on how very much has changed since I was first diagnosed. Of course, I know that things are vastly improved, but to hear it from this particular source somehow made it more real.
“You’ve finally accepted your diagnosis,” she said, almost proudly. “A year ago, you were still in denial and fighting it tooth and nail. You had the idea that if you ignored it long enough it would just disappear. But somewhere along the line you’ve learned that it’s NOT a character flaw, and yes, you’ve even come to embrace it. And that’s healthy!”
After the call ended, I got to thinking about it, and I realized that my friend was spot on in her assessment: I really have accepted my illness as a part of me. It’s not ALL of me, by any stretch of the imagination, and I still think I’d have had an easier life if I didn’t have it. But my attitude is a lot different than it was a year or two ago—I used to try to push BP away as if it were a badly behaved child, even as it clung to me like a burr to a horse blanket. I don’t do that anymore. And as my friend said, there’s an upside to having the condition, because it makes me creative and funny and sarcastic and silly at least as much as, if not more than, it makes me sad and hostile and profane and frustrated.
And I know it’s not going anywhere. This is forever. The first year, I thought Dr. Awesomesauce was just humoring me by giving me that vague “Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis to chew on while he figured out that I was making it all up just for the hell of it. Now the words Bipolar affective disorder are all over my medical charts, and the symptoms—when I have them—are as much of a reality as the aging face I see in my bathroom mirror every morning. They always were, even before I knew there was a name for them. Now they’re happening less and less often, and when they do, I can usually get past the episode pretty quickly…..as long as I take my meds faithfully and call Dr. A when I feel myself approaching the edge of the abyss.
Yes, it helps a great deal to hear the perspective of someone who knows and understands me, doesn’t judge me, and is far enough away from the situation to be objective. Thank you, my friend. 🙂