My Life Lost to Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar Burble Blog

I have lost many years of life to bipolar disorder. No, I don’t mean that you have a reduced life expectancy due to bipolar disorder (although That’s probably true too.). What I mean is that there are years of living that are missing due to bipolar disorder. At 46 years old, I can look back over the decades and see very clearly these lost years of life.

What are years lost due to bipolar disorder?

“Living” is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, but living, to me, is going out and doing the things you want to do and achieving the things you want to achieve. Of course, no moment is perfect. We also don’t get everything we want, but living is the process of pursuing it.

So the “lost years” are the years when I couldn’t do that. While years can be lost for many reasons, my lost years are the years spent on illnesses and treatments.

My teenagers lost to bipolar disorder

In my adolescence I was neither diagnosed nor treated. Most of their time they were in a horrible spiral of depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies, with occasional bursts of madness known as hypomania. Other teens were worried about boys (or girls) and what to wear while I was in therapy, trying to survive until I was old enough to leave the house. (At the time, most of my depression and instability was thought to be due to domestic issues. It was never considered a mental illness. While these issues certainly complicated the situation, I suspect I also had bipolar disorder at the time.) .

My 20 years lost to bipolar disorder

I can say that not all of my 20s were lost to bipolar disorder. For part of my 20s, I was earning a college degree (although I was still pretty sick). For part of my 20s, I was working at my first tech job. For part of my 20s, I did skydiving, scuba diving, and paragliding.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I also spent time in a psychiatric ward. I also spent part of my 20s suicidal, self-harming, and in deep depression. Those types of states will steal days, weeks and months from you, no matter what. While other young people were out partying with their friends, I was working with great concern about the effects that lack of sleep and alcohol would have on my mood.

The 30s lost to bipolar disorder

My 30s were worse. When I was 29, I got a job at a big, fancy tech company in the US (I’m from Canada). This was the biggest opportunity of my career, so I took advantage of it and moved to Washington state. But there was a price to pay for working in such a stressful environment and in a group where betrayal and politicking were common pastimes. I ended up having to take time off for short-term disability within six months of joining the company. I then underwent Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) implantation surgery to treat my treatment-resistant depression. This is not functional. Anyway I went back to work. My stay there was very difficult. I dedicated every moment to work and wore myself out to the point where I needed to lie down on the floor of my office and take a nap in the afternoons just to keep working.

I was fired after three years. I tried electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at that time to try to treat my depression. That didn’t work either. Depression and the surrounding drama led to a suicide attempt. Surviving that experience wasn’t much of a “living” either. While other people were getting married and having children, I was busy with everyday life.

My 40 years lost to bipolar disorder

I’m now in my mid-40s and bipolar disorder is still doing its thing: it’s still consuming my life. There are few options left when it comes to treating my bipolar disorder, and bipolar disorder continues to impact my daily existence. I spend much of my days employing bipolar coping skills and demanding complete control over the thoughts in my brain at all times to stay upright. I rarely live. While other people have reached the peak of their careers and are settling into long-term relationships, I can’t climb the career ladder or make the connections that others have had for years.

What I haven’t lost with bipolar disorder

All of the above is true and horrible. But it’s important to put that in context. When I was in my teens and 20s, I earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I started my career. I flew with the eagles over Venezuela. When I was in my 30s and 40s, I also began a career as a writer and speaker. I wrote and published a book. I bought a condo. I testified before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I built relationships with companies like healthy place and Health Union. Yo created a podcast. And I achieved many small daily goals. I didn’t lose my best friends. I didn’t lose my kittens. I didn’t lose my life. These are not small things.

So while I deeply mourn all the days lost to bipolar disorder and its treatment, there are other things to think about and remember. Context matters. Achievements, no matter how small and no matter how different from those of my peers, matter. The people in my life matter. The things I’ve held on to matter.

I will always lose my life to bipolar disorder

What it boils down to is that no, I don’t have a life like other people. Most of my day is spent dealing with a brain that’s trying to kill me. That drastically affects what I can do in a day. It also drastically affects the way I interact with the world. Those are just facts. I will continue to lose parts of my life to bipolar disorder. That is also a fact.

However, bipolar disorder has not robbed me of who I am as a human being. He hasn’t stolen my gifts. It has not robbed me of my value as a person. And even though this hellish disease has taken years of my life, I’ve still accomplished some things despite it. That’s what I will continue to do. I will continue to find little moments and little ways to really live.

Image by Flickr user mike mozart.

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