I’ve been thinking lately about time and its relationship to bipolar disorder and more specifically on how time, consistency and expectation impact our relationship to ourselves and the perspectives of people who view us from the outside. In our daily lives consistency seems to be something that is sought after as the foundation that everything else relies upon. In jobs, relationships, self-identification and in social identification, consistency appears to be a key expectation in all facets of life. It seems that the ability to predict the future is almost as important as the ability to anticipate it. Knowing who we are and why we do the things we do, and finding ways to continue this process of carrying our past into the future, is an essential role of a perceived healthy human being. However for us bipolars, consistency is one of our most difficult challenges and the world reminds us of this every day.
It sometimes seems like the world isn’t made for us. Like we don’t fit the mold of what a human being should be. Employers don’t want workers who will suffer uncontrollable bouts of depression or mania and exhibit associated behaviors. Friends don’t want the unpredictability of friends who one moment are filled with energy and excitement and the next moment won’t leave their house or talk to anyone because they are so depressed. They want consistency. They want reliability. They want to know that who you are now is who you will be tomorrow and 6 months from now.
The fact is, we would love to have this consistency as much as everyone else wants it from us, but evolution and chance have given us a set of cards that are a little more difficult to play. Like any minority that doesn’t fit the bill of the majority we face our challenges, but for us these challenges are more than just fitting into a social/cultural structure. For us it means dealing with our social/cultural structure as well as dealing with our internal struggles for self-survival. Our simple existence is a challenge for us at times and especially during an episode of mania or depression. We feel the normal struggles of daily life along with you, but we also feel the struggles of convincing ourselves that this life is actually worth living, or losing so much control of our ability to properly judge and reason that we end up risking it all, both outcomes unfortunately having a bad conclusion. In our extremes things can seem to be unbearable for all involved, but much of our time is spent in milder forms of the disorder’s expressions and at other times we appear to be like everyone else. We live, play and work amongst you and although you may not easily see us, we are there.
There have been many advances in medication and treatments that help us stabilize and manage our shifts in mood to help us better fit the consistent model that everyone wants, but these treatments are still not 100% or what we would call a cure, and until the day of a cure has come, patience, understanding, education and awareness will have to do. We are huge contributors to the world and although socially we can be a little off at times, our creative abilities are sometimes unmatched. You don’t have to look too hard to discover how many great artists, philosophers, scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians have been touched by bipolar disorder or other forms of mental illness. The future stems collectively from our present minds and the more we can help, embrace and accept each other’s mental health, the better the future will be for all of us.