I have Bipolar Disorder. I have to deal with this disorder every single day of my life. It is not curable and it won't just magically go away. However, I live a happy, productive life in spite of my mental illness. You can do the same thing, but only if you are willing to do what it takes to accomplish this important goal.

When I first learned that I had a disorder, even though it was misdiagnosed at the time, I was surviving but it couldn't be said that I was high-functioning. I went to work and performed my job but I went into episodes every weekend from the stress. Frequently I called in sick to work. I felt really sorry for myself and wallowed in self-pity. My life was unhappy; life was a big mess. Relationships were falling apart left and right.

When I finally learned that I had Bipolar Disorder, I realized that the first tool I needed was knowledge. I needed to know what this disorder was, what the symptoms of episodes were, how I could manage it and what could be done to treat it. I wanted to know if I could get better. I learned that I could get better and could live a productive life if I chose.

Then I learned I would need psychiatric medical treatment on a regular basis, medication daily and counseling regularly. These things cost money and I had no insurance. I had to make some choices. Did I want to feel better and live better? If so, I had to prioritize my money so I could pay for my doctor and counselor visits. I had to obtain medication. If I chose not to do this, I was sentencing myself to a life of misery.

I could elect to tell everyone I couldn't afford the treatment and medication and give up on myself. That didn't sound very appealing to me. So, I sat down and looked at what little money I had and calculated ways to save enough money to pay for each visit to the doctor by the time of my appointment. This was an investment in myself.

I learned that having a means of earning some money that was meaningful and satisfying would help my treatment. I found a way to do this which made it easier to pay for the treatment needs. It was still difficult, but I managed to keep a roof over my head and still go to the doctor when needed.

I used resources to learn about whether I qualified for discount or patient assistance medications. I was fortunate and did get some help. However, this help is reserved for those that really have no assets and little income. It isn't right to try to get this help when you actually only can't pay for your doctor and medications because you are paying for a fancy sports car! The balance of my medications I managed to budget into my small income.

I had to adjust my lifestyle to incorporate the techniques my doctor and counselor require me to use to help manage my Bipolar Disorder. I have Bipolar Disorder – I am not bipolar. It does not define me. I am a person first, a writer second, and third, I am a person with an illness. In that order; I don't view myself as Bipolar or as a victim. I just have an illness just like diabetes or arthritis. I have great days and bad days and emotions just like the average person. I have people that love me and support me in my efforts to manage my disorder effectively.

Today, no one knows I have Bipolar Disorder unless I choose to tell them. I'm choosing to tell you in order to help you realize that you can, just like I did, become high functioning if you put your priorities in the right places. I don't have a fancy car. I don’t have a fancy house and I don't buy expensive clothes. I pay my health care professionals and pay for the part of my medications I'm responsible for. THAT is the priority for me today. It doesn't mean that I can't spend extra money on treats for myself. But I have to take care of me first and foremost or I will be no good to anyone, including myself.

If you choose to remain in self-pity, thinking that all your health care should be free and that your medications should be given to you or that you don't need to follow your doctor's and counselor's treatment plan, you are setting yourself up for failure. Locate a good psychiatrist and counselor, develop a treatment plan and medication plan and follow them as if they were your religion. You'll be happier, healthier and those around you will be grateful to see your progress.

Having Bipolar Disorder is all about choices: you choose to succeed or you choose to fail. I, for one, choose to succeed and live life to the fullest.