I remember clearly the day I received my diagnosis. I remember the words, "bipolar disorder" bouncing off the walls and hitting me again and again. I nodded in acceptance, but by the time I reached my car, I was in tears and denial. No one was going to put a label on me! That was nine years, several jobs and many broken relationships ago. Today, I have not only accepted that label but have learned to respect its effect on every single aspect of my life. The difference between now and the day of my diagnosis is this: I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder does not have me.

Now that I have learned to look at my life more objectively, I see the devastating price I have paid for letting the disorder go unchecked all these years: I made poor choices in mates resulting in two broken marriages. I made disastrous financial mistakes, leaving me nearly homeless on more than one occasion. I watched my childbearing years fade away, longing to be a mother, and finally realizing that this dream would go unfulfilled. I have lost dear friends who no longer had the stamina to put up with me. As I became more educated about bipolar disorder, I began to realize that it functions much like a complex computer virus; it seems to have built-in resistance mechanisms that go into effect when recovery is attempted. In order to achieve some semblance of a balanced life, I would have to respect its awesome power. This realization really took hold when I woke up in a mental hospital after taking an overdose of prescription medication. I finally realized that bipolar disorder could (and would) kill me unless I changed my attitude toward it. So I did. Today I take my medication. Every day. No excuses. I force myself to stay in touch with friends and family members, even when I want to close myself off. I have given my family and close friends permission to question me without fear of reproach if they think that something might be amiss with me. I realize that those around me will see warning signs before I do. I eat healthy food now, and resist eating for comfort. I take walks daily. I am part of a community, EA, (Emotions Anonymous) which provides a safe atmosphere for me to be me and to receive support from others who understand. It also provides me with actual tools that I can use daily to make better choices for myself. More importantly, I pray and ask God for his help, realizing this journey is too great to handle on my own. As a result of my new awareness, the second half of my life looks bright with promise...but only if I take it one step and one day at a time. It has been a long, painful battle, but in doing these things, regardless of my mood, I am able to say with confidence, "Yes, I have bipolar disorder; but bipolar disorder does not have me."

from MIRA Reporter, as seen in Life in the Balance, DBSA Metro Detroit May/June 2004