Kicking Bipolar’s Ass

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“She is bipolar.”

I cringe every time I hear these words, or see them typed out in print or online somewhere like I did today. You would never hear, “She is cancer.” Instead, after someone is cured of cancer you hear, “She BEAT cancer.”

That is so wonderful. I cheer along with everyone else when I read of someone’s victorious fight with the devil that is cancer. If you think about it, mental illness should be looked at the same way. I don’t want to be known as the woman who is bipolar and is married with two kids.

I didn’t ask for this condition, this heartbreaking, terrifying, complicated illness, to hit me at the age of twenty-six when I was newly married and at the peak of my recruiting career.

And I am not my illness.

I am so much more than this condition I live with and manage each and every day.

I am a wife. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A granddaughter. A niece. A cousin. An aunt. A friend. An employee. A room mom. A church member.  A Sunday school teacher. A writer. A reader. A bubble bath-taker. A coffee lover. A vegetarian. A chocoholic. A fan of music. A dancer. A car singer.

You know, the type that knows every word to every song and loves to sing no matter how bad of a singer she is. Yeah. That’s me.

I am the sum of all these beautiful, wonderful things.

I am NOT Bipolar.

I may have bipolar disorder, but it does not define me. I am defined by the people I surround myself with, the people who I love and who also love me for who I am. The ways I spend my time help to mold me into the person I am becoming.

And I’m pretty happy with her. Most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of growing and learning to do. But I do think that I can be proud of how far I’ve come.

I turned 34 last month. I recently commented to my best friends how it seems like a third of our lives is gone already. They both reminded me that we’d have to live to 102 for that to be the case. Hey, it’s possible. But I guess they’re right. More than a third is done. Lived. In the books. {or, on the blog.}

Sometimes I wonder where all that time went.

I’m not sure, but I do know that I want to be able to say, for the rest of whatever time I have left, that I beat bipolar disorder. That I was an inspiration to others still fighting. And that I did my best.

I think I’m doing a decent job so far.

Life and the sweetest moments in photos

My husband and I just got back from a five-day trip to sunny California to see one of my childhood friends get married. My mom and dad agreed to stay with the kids so we could have a nice, relaxing trip. A chance to recharge our batteries, so to speak.

It was so incredible. Being able to do what we wanted and not have to worry about the kids was so nice. It took me back to our first five years of marriage. Plus, we got to hang out with my best friends at the same time as a bonus. The weather was amazing – bright sunshine and perfectly warm days followed by crisp evenings with a slight nip in the air.

I thought about the kids, don’t get me wrong. My parents texted pictures of the kids so we wouldn’t miss them too much. But the moment I saw my mom’s number pop up on my phone as we were sitting out by the pool having cocktails before dinner the second night, I knew something was wrong. They had to bring her in to Urgent Care because when my mom was lifting her out of the bathtub, the little princess felt she needed to exert her authority by sitting down as my mom was pulling her up by her hands. My immediate thought was that her shoulder popped out of the socket. But the doctor determined it was her elbow and after reviewing the x-rays, the little lady turned out to be just fine.

Her mom on the other hand, was a little shook up. But I knew she was in good hands with her Grandma and Poppy. After finding out everything was fine and her arm was doing much better the next day, I was able to relax for the remainder of the trip and enjoy the time with my friends and hubby. We did sightseeing in Los Angeles (saw Rodeo Drive!), went out to eat at some trendy restaurants, and witnessed our friends tie the knot on a gorgeous ranch property overlooking Malibu beach. Dinner and dancing followed and we took tons of photos, so as to capture the perfection of the day in frames that we could cherish forever.

On the flight home I started to feel melancholy. I love the times I have with my friends, but I get so choked up when I sit down and think about how little time I actually get to spend with them each year. We all have families and careers and other responsibilities that seem to fill up our calendars so that when we do all eventually get together, we usually start planning our next get-together. One of my friends coined it our own special “bucket list” of things we want to do together. On the list so far is a camping trip, a sailing trip, and the wedding of the last of the six of us to get married.

Then I get home late Sunday night and the next morning I start feeling anxious and teary. I couldn’t put my finger on it as to why, other than I had read an excerpt from a book of a woman who had lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks and it made me so scared and sad. I’ve always been afraid of death, afraid of whether I’ve done enough in my life before I die. It didn’t help that my mom joked that she doesn’t think she’ll be around for her granddaughter’s wedding (she’d be in her 80’s).

I’m even more scared of losing someone I love, than I am of actually dying myself. The only people who I’ve lost who I was close to were my dad’s two college friends and I didn’t have day-to-day contact with them, just lots of memories from growing up. I worry about what will happen to me when my Grandma passes, or if I ever lost a close friend. I don’t know if I could handle the hurt.

For now I am thankful to have an appointment with my therapist tonight. I’m going to discuss this all with her to see what she thinks. I’m sure she’ll have some ideas for me on how to cope. In the meantime, I’m looking back over all the pictures we took this past weekend and am smiling at the memories with friends whom I love dearly.