I love diamonds - what normal woman wouldn't? :) But have you ever heard the saying about being a diamond in the rough? Well, that's what I think having bipolar disorder is like.

We cannot have the kind of life that others have, simply because we have this annoying lifetime brain disease called bipolar disorder. The secret is, however, that this disease CAN be managed, and we can live a normal life in spite of it! I know, because I'm doing it, and if I can do it, so can you.

If your goal is to have a normal life, first you have to look at what you have to work with – so that's why I give the picture of a diamond in the rough. They don't make perfect diamonds overnight, and the process is not an easy one. But in the end, it's worth it, isn't it? Don't you see diamonds as beautiful?

If you do this, you will see yourself as beautiful, too, despite having bipolar disorder. One of the first coping techniques I did was to write positive affirmations to myself on Post-Its and put them on my bedroom and bathroom mirrors. So every time I looked, I'd read something like, "You are worthy," "You are loved," and "You are stable." If you do this long enough, those positive affirmations become a part of you, and your self-esteem will naturally improve.

Then I set about trying to organize my very disorganized life. I used to be a "hoarder" - I wouldn't even let a good box go! My dining room table was so cluttered with "stuff" I thought was important, until one day I just started on it. Just a few minutes. Just going through the top layer of one stack. I had 3 boxes - 1 to keep, 1 to sell at a yard sale, and 1 to throw away.

It took me weeks to get through that table, but the amazing thing was that I emerged able to throw things away - like those empty boxes I was saving for "someday!" Now I am not attached to things as much. And after going thru each room like that (over a period of 2 months), we had a heck of a yard sale! The money was a welcome income, and I found that I had changed. I no longer am a clutterer - because I want my house to stay looking good. I changed!

Being a diamond in the rough means having the willingness to change. If you go to a therapist, they will work with you on the things you need to change. I found out that I was approaching things with a wrong attitude, and I changed that. I learned how to pay my bills efficiently and on time. I learned not to expect perfection from myself. I learned that I am "already enough" - I was always trying to people please, or to hide my bipolar disorder from them. I felt like I wasn't good enough, and assumed that everybody but me had it all together. Then I found out that others without bipolar disorder have just as much a struggle as we do - they just have it in a different area. Realizing I was not that much different than anyone else really helped me.

But it wasn't enough. I wanted to be the best "me" I could be, despite my bipolar disorder. That meant getting stable. Over time, and with help from my therapist and support group, I was able to change things in myself (like seeking perfection) that needed changing.

I've learned to live "in the moment," which is a concept taken from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (which I went through 3 times). I have learned to accept things the way they are right now, instead of wishing they were some other way. I deal with what is, instead of what I want it to be. I am focused on only today (One day at a Time), since feeling guilty over the past and worrying about the future were two things I couldn't do anything about, and it was hurting me to go those places.

Today my "now" is diamond-shaped. I live a very good life, despite the fact that I have bipolar disorder. In fact, I use my disorder to help other people - those on my blogs and on the website (www.bipolarcentral.com), and others that I run into outside my home or who email me.

I am truly blessed today with normally-managed finances (all my bills get paid on time), no debt, living within my means, friends, family, a beautiful home, a car that drives well and gets me from point A to point B (so what if it isn't new), and a wonderful marriage to my best friend of 10 years, who also has bipolar disorder and with whom I recently celebrated a 3-year wedding anniversary.

Actually, it was my husband who gave me the topic for this article. I asked him how he could have possibly loved me way back when (before I fell in love with him) because of all my destructive behaviors, and he said it was because he saw me as a diamond in the rough. Now, today, after everything I've gone through, I am that diamond. I am finally stable and happy with my life, and consider it as normal as anyone else's.

If I could give only one piece of advice to someone else, I would say to "live in the moment." That "now" kind of thinking, and accepting things the way they are instead of how I want them to be, has changed my life immensely.