Do YOU think bipolar disorder is a gift?

imgres

 

Sooooooo, my friends, I usually just post once a week, but I can’t help posting once more.

I’ve gotten into a relatively new habit of checking out the Word Press Freshly Pressed selections.

On Thursday I spotted this post in the line-up:

https://mybeautifulmachine.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/bipolar-as-unexpected-gift/

While I was genuinely glad that the topic of bipolar disorder attracted the attention of the WordPress editorial staff, I was also disappointed.

Why?

Because, because, because, because…(and I know some of you will disagree with me on this point, but I still love you!)

I can’t stomach calling bipolar disorder a gift.  My Dad had bipolar disorder, and he didn’t think it was a gift either!  

I guess when it comes to mental illness, my attitude of non-gratitude runs in the family!

(And I wonder why Oprah won’t return my phone calls about being interviewed on her

“Super Soul Sunday” show!!!)

images-1

 

I’ve read numerous bipolar-themed memoirs and articles over the past decade. I observed in those works that a sizable portion of the writers who felt their bipolar disorder to be a gift didn’t have children.  I couldn’t help but notice that the author of the Freshly Pressed blog piece doesn’t have children.  I feel that if asked, most children who have been adversely affected by their parent’s bipolar disorder would not consider the mental illness as a gift.  

Other people who consider their bipolar disorder to be a gift are profoundly helped by their belief.  Some of these “others” are my friends or acquaintances who I admire very much.  Please – I don’t mean to offend you.  We can agree to disagree on this matter.  I won’t write about it much more; as you can see, I’m getting it out of my system today.  To tell you the truth, I feel like a shit for not thinking the same way as you/them.

But back to the Freshly Pressed blog post!  I skimmed the “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” post’s comments so far, and I didn’t recognize a single soul from my beloved bipolar blogging community.  I was surprised about that!  I wanted to see what y’all thought.  I also noticed that not a single person to date has written to voice any disagreement with the premise that bipolar is a gift.  That gave me pause; I’ll write more about that later.

Take a look at the Freshly Pressed post.  

What do you think?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

XO,

Dyane

——————————————————————————————————————————

Wait!

Here’s a looong p.s. 

At first I felt so bummed out about the Freshly Pressed choice that I decided to write a letter to WordPress voicing my opinion.  I contacted the WordPress help forum to ask where I should send my email, and I wrote,   

To be honest, I was on the fence about even contacting WordPress, and I still am a bit hesitant. 🙂 However, I feel compelled to speak up in the hopes that I will be heard.”

The longtime WordPress volunteer, with whom I had positive, friendly correspondence in the past, surprised me with her caustic reply.  

She wrote, “Understood but do be prepared to note that some think mental illness is a gift and some think it is a curse.”

Really???   I’d never thunka that before! I thought. 

Just kidding!  

Her curt, patronizing reply made me think that maybe the WordPress folks, as much as I love WordPress, might not get where I was coming from. Meanwhile the uber-paranoid part of me feared they’d shut down my WordPress “dissenter” account!  I’d have to, gasp, go to the inferior Blogger!

I decided not to send it the “Happiness Engineer” after all.  I felt that my complaint sounded too much like sour grapes (well, I admit maybe I was just a bit envious, okay, okay!) and it ultimately my email wouldn’t make a difference.  Here are some excerpts from my email:  

“Dear G.,

I appreciate your finding the topic of bipolar disorder a worthy Freshly Pressed selection! As a blogger with bipolar disorder, I was excited to spot the word “bipolar” in Freshly Pressed. However, the complete title “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” made my heart sink.

Over the past few years there has been a media trend to sugarcoat bipolar disorder.  This was most recently displayed in the Huffington Post article “The Six Gifts of Mental Illness” and in numerous other articles.

I follow bipolar disorder in the media very closely.  I’m a longtime volunteer for the International Bipolar Foundation, a member of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, and my WordPress blog was nominated for a WEGO Health “Best in Show Blog”. I’m a mental health advocate with a focus upon mothers who have bipolar disorder. My father had bipolar disorder as well.

Recently I did an informal study of responses to two articles about bipolar disorder being considered a gift.  I noted that roughly 50% of those replies disagreed with that concept.

While I’m genuinely glad that the Freshly Pressed blogger has found bipolar to be a gift in his life, I feel his point of view places pressure on those WordPress bloggers who have mental illness and haven’t found it to be a gift. (And I’m one of them, obviously! : ) When I see Freshly Pressed titles equating bipolar as a gift, whether it’s expected or unexpected, I feel that it minimizes my condition.  Due to the total lack of any critical comments about his post so far, and the low statistics compared to other Freshly Pressed selections, I suspect that many people chose not to read his post after spotting the title. 

I love WordPress, and I was hesitant to contact you, but this is a topic that’s very close to my heart.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reading this, and I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from.   There is an incredible array of WordPress bloggers with bipolar disorder.  For future Freshly Pressed choices I encourage you to check out Blahpolar Diaries, Kitt O’Malley, Stigmama, Bipolar1Blog, The Lithium Chronicles, and The Bipolar Mama.  I’m leaving out other ones I love, but that’s a great start!  Thank you once again for your time.

take care and all my best,

Dyane”

 

 

 

Advertisements

75 thoughts on “Do YOU think bipolar disorder is a gift?

  1. Oh Dear. I have some wild ideas about Bipolar Disorder myself, but if I were a mother I am absolutely certain I would feel differently. I TOTALLY respect your opinion and am proud of the fact that you spoke up. I’m learning a lot from you. Thank you for being you!!! Brenda

    1. Thanks so much, my dear, for your empathy about different point of views.

      I hope you get a kick of what I just posted for you and your husband. It’s in honor our shared “hippiedom” – the video cracks me up. It was filmed the year before I was born, but my husband Craig is closer to your husband’s age – he turns 56 on March 24th & he’s a huge Beatles /misc. 60’s music freak. He robbed with cradle a bit with me. 😉

      1. Oh yeah, we like the Beatles as well! My husband is the REAL music geek in our family. He has good taste. Sounds like your hubby does too. I like music a lot, but I also ‘dig it” when there is just peace and quiet. lol

  2. Hi,Bipolar at its starting really a curse. But when you know how to handle it, it turns out to be a gift. Simple way to turn your curse to gift is, just stop doing things which make you feel guilty later and Start doing things you like, with little analysis, care and ease.

  3. Hi,Bipolar at its starting really a curse. But when you know how to handle it, it turns out to be a gift. Simple way to turn your curse to gift is, just stop doing things which make you feel guilty later. Start doing things you like with little analysis, care and ease.

  4. You certainly got a lot of response Diane! So glad you did!
    I have did as you know. I do not consider it to be a gift!
    I totally get what your saying! To bad wp werent more helpful. But at least all of your blogger buddies will support your cause. That includes me! xoxox

      1. It depends on the sufferer. I hate my bipolar 1 with its disabling extremes. But it does have its beauty. And I can learn at a very excelled rate when stable. Love to all.

  5. I have never considered my Bipolar as a gift. I will go from a wild, manic crazy time to a very deep depression that causes suicidal thoughts and one try that landed me in the hospital. It caused me trouble at work while I was still working. Right now I am on SSDI and I do take meds and while they slow down the mania they make me super depressed since I have take a mood stabilizer to keep the anti-depressant from causing the wild manic times. I have had this since I was a child and had to raise 3 kids 2 of which have mental illnesses themselves. My husband the jerk deserted us when our youngest was 12 and he had rage issues added to his
    Bipolar. I just created my Bipolar Blog and right now I seem to be signing in with the story/poem blog I did — http://www.finallyawritercom. I am the same person.

  6. It was bizarre to me at first that someone referred to bipolar as a gift. Then I began to think that this is the way society would like to read about mental illness. This is a kind of gimicky thing that gets the attention and the response from the public that a writer trying to get ahead might want.
    It sounds like an article that might in a tabloid at the check out aisle of Shop Rite grocery store.
    It is not good because it will create even more stigma from the public in a way. If I have bipolar and someone knows that. They might expect me to be so happy about my “gift” and there will be no understanding of the fact that bipolar can be so disabling to your daily functionality.
    I have recently been diagnosed with bipolar 2. I did not know what was wrong with me . I was getting to the point where I was having problems keeping my job. I still am.
    Creating an untrue perception of bipolar to the public is going to cause us more problems than we already had.
    Blessings
    Annie

    1. Annie, I have bipolar 2 as well, and I liked your comment. That’s really perceptive that this “bipolar as gift” rhetoric reinforces stigma and doesn’t lead to other people understanding how BP affects our daily lives and makes things difficult.

  7. First of all, the person who wrote that blog post started it with ” grew up in a family that was both very privileged and very gifted. My sister and I were both subject to high expectations — very high expectations.” for me that means that her experience and mine are TOTALLY different. Our mental illnesses is the same, but not.

    It sucks that WORDPRESS SUCKS BALLS and can’t give the mental health world a proper HELLO, but that’s them. I once contacted them and got the runaround from a computer. I never even talked to anyone. Ugh!

    Dyane! I have been totally thinking of you lately! What is your email address? Can we talk!? 🙂

    1. For the first time ever, I haven’t read any of these comments yet except for the first two (I *will* read them – just probably not until the weekend) but for some reason I read yours ’til the end!! Meant to be! My email is dyane@baymoon.com 🙂 I’m not feeling too hot today, so it might take me a day or two to respond, but I will write back! Much love and thanks for thinking of me! 🙂 XO

  8. “If life gives you lemons, make a daquiri” If you can’t fix it try to deal with it is as positive a way as you are able. Dyane, I do not believe in any way shape or form that BPD is a gift. It is an affliction we must deal with. The disruptions and confusion, broken families and premature death associated with BPD is horrible.

    My particular brand of BPD is genetically inherited. I have other disability issues that are physical not mental. Pretty much since birth. I am a cripple, (left leg, post-polio). My Cousin Michael first put me on a horse. When I was twelve Michael fell asleep driving home from work and turned himself into a RR abutment. I was asked to be a pall-bearer. My older cousins who had served in this role before had nightmares and were afraid. I took the job. It honors those who have passed over.

    I have many sleep issues including a disorder that mimics Narcolepsy. I chose to retire in 2004 because turning myself into a RR abutment didn’t seem like a good idea. Even if I didn’t care; who else might get involved?

    I had started seeking help for this problem in 2002. Six years later, in 2008, I was diagnosed as BiPolar. About two years after that the medical professional I had consulted with in 2002 blithely informed me that BPD was the disorder that mimics Narcolepsy. I could say more about this but my language would certainly upset some of your readers.

    4 of the 5 surviving members of my immediate family are BPD. My sister was the first to find out in 2005. As I learned more about BPD I realize much of the bad luck I had experienced during my life was BPD related. Before that I had considered myself to have been born under a bad sign. I do not know if BPD is a curse. It is not a blessiing even if it occasionally provides a Daquiri.

    I have been a disability rights activist since I was 3 or 4. I am brand new to this blogging business. Add me to your crusaders!

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Sorry…but it is NOT a gift. It is a curse, a war with your own head. A war with no end in sight.

  10. Although I know that BP is responsible for my periods of amazing creativity, it’s also responsible for the loss of everything that meant anything to me. It’s paralyzed me, left my life in chaos, the misery of being truly disabled…mine is not one of those rosy stories of triumph over adversity–the opposite. True, there were moments of triumph, but now, looking back, I see that they were fueled by hypomania and eventually led to collapse, job loss, relationship failure, and intense suicidality since childhood. So no, bipolar is not a gift to me. On the other hand, I do feel my Asperger syndrome IS a gift, even though it does alienate me from real live humans. But bipolar, no, not a gift, in fact a curse.

  11. I just read the bipolar is a gift post. I’m willing to allow that it clearly is a gift for some. Before anyone tells me it’s a gift to me too, I would prefer them to declare their exact diagnosis and treatment, their financial status and their support network. With those facts, the topic becomes worth discussing. Bipolar is a wide spectrum and humanity isn’t all middle class and first world. Circumstances vary so much, that unqualified blanket statements are pointless. And it’s all far too full of logic fail to interest me much.

    Personally: bipolar fucked up most of my 44 years. That is not a gift. In the process, I have hurt others – and honestly, I think that calling anything that damages not only me, but people around me, is ludicrous. Gift? That’s insulting.

    But glad someone is enjoying it.

  12. I don’t find bipolar disorder to be a gift.

    Yes, it’s been linked to creativity (I’ve read Jamison’s book Touched with Fire) but not ALL creative people have this disease. Many artists/writers/etc. are perfectly stable and healthy and still produce awesome work. Considering how BP derailed some of these creative genius’ lives, it’s worth asking whether they would’ve benefitted from taking meds, getting stable, and still being able to produce work (and more of it). Jamison certainly doesn’t seem to find creative masterpieces to be worth the cost of human life, and simple compassion would argue the same. Yes, I can produce creative work even when I’m unstable; but I’m much, much more productive when I am stable; I’m able to handle setbacks and failures more easily, too.

    Secondly, as you noted, it’s different when you’ve got kids. I work very hard to stay stable, not just for my own sake, but for theirs. I didn’t grow up with mentally ill parents, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I’ve read enough memoirs from kids of mentally ill to say that those children were wounded by their parents’ issues. (To varying degrees, of course: it depends on many different factors, including whether the child was kept physically safe, given other stable adults to help with the situation, the severity/duration of the illness, etc.) Plus, I have to think that I will be passing on these BP genes to my children; will they end up dealing the depression and hypomania that I have?

    I try to make the best of it, but it’s not what I would’ve chosen. I have to assume that God is using this somehow to do his will. But BP ain’t easy to handle!

  13. Whatever pushes me out of the realm of having depression and having bipolar instead is very slight, and that slight difference kept me from being diagnosed and treated properly for a long while. I’m 30 and was diagnosed a year ago. I have mixed episodes but overall depressive symptoms. Maybe other manifestations of bipolar disorder, the ones that include great productivity and creativity, lend themselves more toward having positive aspects and being something of a gift. Mine personally does not.

  14. At times, I felt it was a gift. Then when I was in a more stable (read:not hypomania) frame of mind, I realized I was just looking at things I already did with rose colored glasses. I have always been persistent, always creative, always been a fighter. Bipolar did not give me any of these things, or any other “gifts”. I think the bipolar just helped me unearth them as I strove fervently to prove to myself that I am worth saving. Bipolar has brought about lots of pain, uncertainty and strife, so I’m going to have to say I don’t feel it is a gift.

  15. Just a quick comment, here. I havent read through the rest of the comments yet.

    I’d like to start out by saying that I despise articles that sugar-coat any condition, but especia6th3 ones that sugar-coat bipolar, which is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to live with and to treat. It’s hard for everyone, including me, and that’s a reality I think American culture, anyway, is just starting to grasp. Oddly, my own reading habits have mostly spared me those — I always seem to find the ones that make it sound slightly less awful than spending the rest of one’s life in a dental chair with no anesthetic.

    I also don’t want anyone to feel pressured to think that bipolar is a gift to them. To be honest, the fact that my post could potentially lead to that makes me think that maybe I should take it down. And, just to make sure it’s clear, I don’t find bipolar to be an unequivocal gift: it’s mostly hellish, with moments of serendipity.

    Not that I think the post itself reads that way (at least, I hope it doesn’t; thats ehy I begin the post by explaining what I am and am not writing about, but to be fair I may not have covered that part well enough) – but the title is the only part a lot of people will ever see, and if the title causes pain to people already hurting, that’s not good.

    I hope this makes sense.

    1. Argh. By the way, the anonymous post below was from me, the poster of the blog entry being discussed. I was replying on my tablet, and for some reason WP handled the login weirdly. Many zillions of apologies >.< I feel like a giant idiot now.

  16. A gift? Paleeeze!!! Does a gift equate to a super-high incidence of suicide? Does a gift equate to inability to work? Does a gift equate to inability to function in the world? Does a gift equate to total financial ruin? Give. Me. A. Fucking. BREAK!!! BIPOLAR IS NOT A GIFT!!!! It is a terrible, and terribly serious, mental illness. Period.

  17. This is really interesting, and I have taken some time to think about it.

    I dont’ think I would ever say that my bipolar is a “gift”. A “life challenge” perhaps, as a gift kind of implies something lovely with no horrible strings attached.

    But, I do, and do often, try to find the positives in what is an extremely difficult diagnosis. I personally (and I know everyone is different) need to do this for my wellbeing. I need to find that ray of sunshine in the storm (my blog is called Finding My Sunshine after all!), and I need to believe that there is some existential reason why I have gone through what I have. That it has led me to do something, taught me something etc etc.

    So I recognise that without bipolar disorder I probably would not have ventured into a PhD program looking to reduce mental illness stigma – and gone towards the career I am. I seriously doubt whether I would have supported mental health advocacy so strongly without my experiences. I feel that I have a greater understanding of other peoples emotional needs, having been through hell myself. And I feel that after the last year, I have a greater appreciation for my family, my health and life itself really, that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise at this stage in my life. That’s not to say that Bipolar disorder hasn’t stolen parts of my life, and I don’t mean to diminish anyone else’s experiences. I just need to find these snatches of sunshine so I can find the strength and meaning to continue.

    I think this may be also the case for other people struggling with all forms of adversity. My best friend was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer shortly after her 30th birthday. During chemo she put her energy into trying to find meaning. She did media and television interviews to raise awareness of symptom recognition, and started an online auction to raise needed research funds. She told me that she learned things she wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s not to say it was an easy time for her. It was pure hell. She was incredibly ill and every day she struggled. But she needed that meaning to pick herself up every day.

    I have a son, and the last thing I would ever want is for him to be affected. And he has. In a major way. It kills me that my illness has affected him. That he may be impacted in the future. That he may develop the disease. From this point my illness is a curse. But what has happened has happened and I can’t change the past. I can’t get rid of my bipolar. I can only work damn hard to try and prevent relapse…and for me to to do that I need to look for the sunshine, however small the rays may be.

    At the end of the day I guess we all deal in different ways with our situation. And your feelings on the matter are completely understandable and completely valid! I TOTALLY get what you are saying. I hope I haven’t in anyway invalidated you or your experiences, I just wanted to offer my view 🙂

    1. “I dont’ think I would ever say that my bipolar is a “gift”. A “life challenge” perhaps, as a gift kind of implies something lovely with no horrible strings attached.”

      Your post is titled Bipolar as Unexpected Gift.

      That’s the salient point here (on Dy’s blog). That’s what we’re debating.

      1. I’m a little confused? I never wrote a post titled “Bipolar as an Unexpected gift” that was the freshly pressed author Dyane referred to?

        All I said that I wouldn’t go as far to call my bipolar a “gift” – because I don’t’ see it as a wholly positive experience. Far from it. But I do recognise that it has taken me on a journey I may not have experienced otherwise.

  18. Dyane, I love reading your posts and I love that you’re not afraid to voice opinion. Like you said, some people will have to agree to disagree. As you know, I share the belief that it can be a positive force in this world. Now, having said that, I don’t always feel that way. It changes…like right now with my mania inspired insomnia, the crashing, the reappearance of the mania…As you know that cycle continues. So, I’m cautious optimistic, some of the time. Does any of this make sense? I am going on only 3 hrs of sleep. 😉 Great post!

  19. Recently I did an informal study of responses to two articles about bipolar disorder being considered a gift. I noted that roughly 50% of those replies disagreed with that concept.

    And so presumably if one of the blogs you suggested were to be Freshly Pressed you’d find it perfectly acceptable for the other 50% to write to WordPress complaining about the choice.

    There has been a tiny trickle of recent media articles like the HuffPost one you cite, but the overwhelming media coverage of mental illness remains negative and stigmatising. Do you really think voices like those of The Icarus Project and The Hearing Voices Network should remain marginalised because they make people who are uncomfortable in their own minds feel it ‘minimises their condition’.

  20. It’s probably worth noting that asher is also gay. So if he’d been born forty years earlier he would have been doubly DSM-fucked. He’d not only suffer from the ‘mental illness’ of homosexuality, he’d have been criminalised by it.

    When I was a kid, homosexuality was a personal and family catastrophe. It sure knocked your life off the rails of a respectable, fulfilled, married with 2.5 kids, suburban existence. Few gays thought public attitude was the problem. Most agreed with the consensus that the problem was their own deviance and many hated themselves for it. Courts sometimes mandated forced treatment for gays, up to and including psychosurgery. Nonetheless some people still embraced their homosexuality and found happiness and fulfillment in it. Others killed themselves for failing to be what society expected them to be.

    Now things have changed and most people accept that gay people have a perfect right to whatever love they can find and to live their life as they choose. Most importantly, gay people are now more likely to accept themselves instead of beating themselves up for their ‘defect’ and desperately grasping at quack ‘cures’ for their ‘disease’.

    Maybe being a 21st century gay man gave asher some of the insight necessary to embrace his other deviances from the socially acceptable norm. He stopped seeing his bipolar as a disorder so it stopped being one.

    Hopefully one day we’ll see a similar enlightenment dawn for other so-called ‘mental illnesses’.

  21. Hi, Dyane. Thanks for the plug. I’m all in favor of free speech, and of people expressing dissenting views and perspectives. I do not consider bipolar disorder to be a gift, but I did reframe it as God’s way to keep me home with my son, who needed more of my attention than he was getting when I was hypomanically overworking. Sometimes framing an illness as a gift is a coping mechanism, a way of rewriting, reframing, finding meaning in what seems senseless. I believe that it is human to look for and find meaning, to interpret suffering as meaningful. It makes it easier to bear. How’s that for a response that straddles the two points of view.

    I agree with you, though, that as a mother, my primary concern has been to be well enough, stable enough, to mother well, to be emotionally and physically available to my son. When I was hospitalized after trying to work and parent, that was my theme, the theme heard over and over by my fellow patients and by clinicians – I wanted to be a good mother. Being an adequate parent is challenging under the best conditions. Living with a mental illness makes it more so, much more so.

    1. I just read Bipolar as Unexpected Gift, and this is what I took away from it (and found wise): He describes a harrowing life of hospitalizations starting in high school. He went to high schools for SED (severely emotionally disturbed) youth. His life was derailed by bipolar disorder. From his high school experience, he learned that “success” is a flexible idea, to pursue his idea of happiness, to marry his the love of his life. His life has been difficult, but it is his life, the life he has led. He, like us, is brave. He has made the best of it. Good for him.

      1. I think a big clue is that he believes he wouldn’t have met his husband, Denis, were it not for his bipolar.

        You can’t be selective about cause and effect. I think most bipolar people recognise that to give up the depression and mania is also to give up the hypomania and the pluses that often go with it. But the truth is that your mental states are completely interwoven through your whole life. If there’s anything to the theories of genetic roots of bipolar then it has been affecting you since even before you were born.

        Are you sure you would be as compassionate and empathetic as you are without bipolar?
        Would you have met your husband and if so would the two of you have still fallen in love?
        Would your son have ever been born?

        If you really hate everything about your life it might be reasonable to see no blessings in your mental health status. But if there’s anything at all you feel grateful for maybe you should think hard about whether you’d still have it if your mind had been anything other than what it is.

        Really you are contingent on and continuous with your entire universe. If anything about you was different the difference would flow through to everything else. You would no longer be you and would have a different idea of the sort of life you should be leading. So it seems pretty pointless to me to regret an aspect of what has made you what you are.

      2. Point taken. I met my husband while recovering from a psychotic break. At the time, though I quit my career as a psychotherapist and moved back in with my parents, he described me as the most independent woman he had ever met. I have always been different and celebrated that fact. Even medicated, I remain neurologically dfferent. Medication does not fundamentally change me. My brain remains a bipolar brain.

        Like Asher, I redefined success due to bipolar disorder. When I was hospitalized ten years ago, I framed it as God’s way of getting me to let go of my career ambitions and workaholism (I was an investment analyst at the time) and stay home with my gifted, sensitive and reactive son who needed me. Giving up my career ambitions was necessary.

      3. Whether God is involved or not, it seems to me that a lot of ‘mental illness’ is a kind of referral of conflicts and contradictions from elsewhere in your life. Maybe at some level you knew your son needed more of you but due to the place your work occupied in your life you just couldn’t say that to yourself directly. So some other part of you took things into its own hands.

        My own early experiences of psychosis/mysticism led me to strenuously question what I really was for a long time in a lot of different ways. But I couldn’t answer that from the perspective of my own self-image. I was standing in my own way. It was only the nine and a half years of utter despair (during which hypomania, mania and psychosis all abandoned the field in favour of unrelenting unipolar depression) that ultimately wore that self-image so thin that when my psychosis finally returned my ‘self’ utterly shattered. Then I could see. I finally realised what I am – or what I’m not. An incredible gift from my madness.

        A friend had been telling me all along that my depression was a spiritual crisis but I’d never really understood what she meant.

  22. Great post! You know exactly how I feel about this issue. I too had a few words for the person who posted on the HuffPost blog that mental illness was a gift. BS I say to that, BS!

  23. There’s been a lot of buzz about the link between bipolar and creativity. Many researchers and some individuals with bipolar have jumped on the bandwagon of enthusiasm, spurred on by the 1993 book, Touched with Fire, in which, drawing on the lives of Lord Byron, van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and others, author Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University, argues that a highly disproportionate number of artists and writers are depressed, suicidal, or manic, that the bipolar and artistic temperaments often overlap, and that those temperaments are causally related. Having a link to greatness may fight stigma and improve self-worth for some, but does the link between bipolar and creativity really exist, and is it a gift?

    Ultimately, what matters most is how the connection, whether real or not, affects people with bipolar.

  24. tbh I’m not sure how I feel about the topic. I only recently read the article you mentioned about the 6 gifts of mental illness, and it did strike a chord with me. In looking at how this disease has affected me and my family, there are a few of my past bad traits that are gone and replaced by a new positive piece of me. However, just because a good change came about through my illness, I do NOT believe bipolar is a gift. Absolutely not. There have been too many people hurt and lives adversely changed due to my bipolar. Because of bipolar I lost my husband and young children for TWO YEARS of our lives. I can never get back those two years, and I feel guilt about it every day. So, I would much have preferred my personality differences to have occurred through natural learning experiences rather than by having a debilitating disease. I could go on and on with this reply, and maybe I should write my own post about it…I almost just did. hugs.

  25. Well I’m pretty sure you know my answer.

    Like asher, I’m also glad bipolar sent my life off the rails.

    Yep, I’ve trashed god-knows-how-many relationships, several university courses and two careers for reasons closely linked to my bipolar. There have been a few addictions, a couple of serious suicide attempts and I carry scars and chronic health problems from several acts of self harm. I spent almost a decade in the absolute pit of despair in which not just every day but often every hour was a fight with suicidality. In that time I lost pretty much all of my friends and realised that not even close family would stick with me through everything. And I love kids but knew from an early age it would be completely irresponsible of me to have any. I never expected to survive past my 20s and in any case I also have strong personal and political reasons for not having children. I got my vasectomy aged 23.

    But my life has been a heck of an adventure and adventures are never without difficulties.

    I won’t detail all the things about my life I think have been amazingly positive as it comes across too much like blowing my own horn, but I know of no-one whose life I’d swap for mine. I’ve had half a century of incredible experiences and frankly think even the ‘successful’ people I know have led bland and boring lives by comparison. Then there’s the incredible gift of October 2012 I received from my bipolar (Which is to say I received it from me. Which is to say I received it from the universe. Bipolar is not something I have. It’s something I am.) I’m pretty certain it’s the same thing many thousands, if not millions, of people have dedicated their lives to finding and very few have. I don’t believe it would have been possible had I been more neurotypical.

    If I’d been determined to follow the staid old path to ‘success’ as defined by my parents and my society my life would have been pretty close to unmitigated disaster. But I always knew that path wasn’t for me. In fact if I’d tried to make my life comply with any preconceptions at all I would have come to consider myself an abject failure.

    But I don’t drive my life. I ride it.
    And hoo-eee!. It’s been one heck of a ride!

    If I wasn’t bipolar I wouldn’t be me. And there’s no-one else I’d rather be.

    1. Thank you for joining this conversation. On the one hand, as a mother I make it a high priority to be as psychiatrically stable as possible. On the other hand, even taking medication, I remain unique, I remain different than someone with a neurotypical brain (as does my son and my husband – we are a unique trio). Even when we treat our brains as if they are disordered, as I do, we still experience the world differently, we still think and feel differently, and we remain anything but boring or ordinary.

  26. Hey Dy,
    in no way do I consider BiPolar a gift. I get none of the positive aspects that others have written about. I live with it as I have no choice but if I could go back in time and have it taken away I would not hesitate to do so. I think of the UK actor Stephen Fry in his documentary “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” where he says if there were a button that would allow him to take the BiPolar away that he would not do it. He commented that his mania has been the source of some of his creativity, which seems to be a common thread in those who would not take their BiPolar away.
    BiPolar affects people in many different ways but for me, and how it has affected my life over the decades (especially being undiagnosed for so long), I could never call it a gift.
    Cheers, Glenn

  27. I consider it a gift and a terrible, terrible curse. When I’m hypomanic, I can turn out books like crazy. My creativity is heightened, and what I write makes sense and is on point. I’d stay like that forever if I could. But we all know it ends.

    When I’m manic, I think I’m brilliant, but I write jibberish. I terrify my husband and kids with my rapid speaking and lack of caring about others. I act out sexually, and generally can think of no one but myself.

    And let’s not begin on the depressive episodes where I cut myself and beg to die. Or the endless tweeking of medicine. Or how about just having to take seven pills a day to merely be “normal.” No, my bipolar disorder is anything but a gift. Unless that gift comes with teeth and a lifetime sentence.

  28. I would agree with Supermommyoftwins its a double edged sword. There are times I feel amazing and feel so together… Which I usually am manic cause I’m so high off of all the energy. Then I come crashing down. I would say I’m content right now in my life, although it’s not perfect I feel really happy. My husband often says if I didn’t go through what I did I might not have met him. So I feel like I can accept it because I’m in a good place right now. But it’s not how I pictured my life to go nor would I wish it on anyone EVER.EVER. EVER. It’s that difficult to live with. Anyway, I like how you pointed out the author has no kids. I cannot think of a time where I’m not fully aware of how my disorder will effect my child. I worry for him constantly. And I hope with my heart he won’t get bipolar. It’s on my mind. And learning to not stress about it is very difficult. Luckily my husband is very in the moment and keeps me seeing that our little happy moments are the things to live for. That our son is happy and that’s all I can hope for.

  29. Yeah! Right! One loses his or her legs in Afghan-land, returns home to the hospital and is fitted with neat chrome or titanium “things” and can now run and get attracted as a survivor. What a gift! And all those breast cancer survivors who can now raise money and run in marathons for a good cause. And get accolades? What a gift to have survived and to tell about it. I do NOT count my bi-polarity as a gift. NEVER.

  30. You make a compelling case, Dyane, about a number of voices not being heard.. If bipolar is a blessing for some and a curse for others (or, as it is with me — both a blessing and a curse, sometimes at the same time), this should be represented by the posts Freshly Pressed.

    Perhaps the most dis-heartening thing for me in what you’ve noted is that the post is getting so little attention, positive or negative. I suspect this proves we are still not ready to talk about the illness.

  31. I 100% agree with you. ESPECIALLY this line “I feel that it minimizes my condition”
    Ugh if it such a “gift” why is just about everything so incredibly hard? I just cannot wrap my head around their though process. Good for them, but it just is not the feeling of the majority of people who are bipolar. Ugh I am so glad I read your blog today.
    Anyway,that’s just my two cents.

  32. I don’t recall having read that post before, and I have been following the author for a little while. Good for him but I think the only good thing is that I have met some wonderful people. But I suppose if I really stretched my neck I could come up with a few other things.

  33. If you consider it a gift like Herpes is a gift that keeps on giving. The pain I have caused my family and myself is not a gift. Twenty years of drinking to self-medicate because a doctor couldn’t diagnose me correctly until about 5 years ago. I was probably Bipolar starting around 13-14 years old I am now 42. I have been sober for 5 and half years. I have had one round of ECT that was horrendous. I have tried almost every medication there is. Due to Celiac Disease that stays active I don’t absorb all of the medications. I was also diagnosed with conversion disorder and I am not sure if this correct. I started to stutter and have tremors in my hands. The Dr. wanted to film me for his colleagues he was so excited, while I sat there crying and trying to speak but the stutter was so bad he couldn’t understand me. I didn’t want to be filmed like a circus freak, like I wasn’t a human being. He was actually smiling and rubbing his hands together. He was writing a book on Conversion Disorder. My sister finally entered and saw what was going on. She was able to scream at him and grabbed him by his white coat and told him “there will be no f**king filming she is a person you jerk! We are leaving.” Only time she ever did that. I have lost friends and family members because they either think I am contagious or annoying. I have had people who had no problem leaving their kids with me before but now won’t. I had decided years ago that children were probably not in my future. My drinking and family history of mental illness were reasons why. My sister and I always knew one of us would probably be diagnosed with something, it’s in my family too much. My mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, 2 nieces, 2 cousins and yes eventually me. So no it is not a gift. One of the top Neurologists in New England was treating my sister, she had to give a family history and he saw that her twin (me) was Bipolar. He asked her some questions, he got tears in his eyes and told her he wouldn’t wish what I had on his worse enemy and he was so sorry that I had to go through this. I thought this would make my sister understand. It didn’t. My family still thinks I should be cured by now, or better. No matter what I give them to read or what my Dr. says it doesn’t sink in. That is what hurts the most. This curse, not a gift.

  34. This is my response to your response (I haven’t read the Freshly Pressed article yet): It is a social trend to highlight the “desirable aspects” of life as they make people feel better about themselves and the state of the world in general.

    You mentioned Oprah. She is one way on TV and another way, I’m sure, in “real life”. They don’t call it show business for nothin’. One thing Oprah said stuck with me and that is that she has a bad habit of cursing. I personally would love to hear Oprah say Fuck on TV. Not gonna happen.

    My point is the Rags to Riches genre is so embedded in Media Psyche that it does more harm than good because people are rejecting more realistic, real-life narratives. I mean who wants to read “I woke up this morning and felt like shit. This bipolar thing is kicking my ass and I’m losing the fight”.

    I agree with you Dyane. It’s disappointing.

    The whole BE POSITIVE movement is like a disease in itself. Ugh, feeling super-irritable and agitated. Sorry if my response is “a downer”.

    Be well 🙂

  35. Have I told you lately Supermommyoftwins that I love you???? Thanks for the empathy! Your comment puts it so well – that’s exactly how I feel. (((hugs)))

  36. Good post, worth being freshly pressed. I did post a comment and toss in my two cents. Just goes to show that you cannot judge a post by its title alone.

    1. Ooooh – I need to read your comment, my friend. You are right. It’s not fair to judge a post (or book – or blog!!!!) by its title alone. By the way, I was going to put YOUR blog in my laundry list of recommended blogs at the end of my Happiness Engineer (!) email, but I was on a roll with listing bloggers with bipolar, as you saw, I’m sure. But I was tempted, okay? (((hugs)))!!!!

  37. I feel (and have written about but never published) that Bipolar Disorder has been a two-edged sword for me. It’s helped me be extraordinary but has also ruined crucial aspects of my life and actually stolen parts of it. I don’t consider it a curse, but if it were a gift, it would be one I would never have willingly accepted. No thank you.

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s