Can You Have Bipolar Disorder and Still Be Happy?

Some people have accused me of not taking bipolar disorder seriously enough. They don’t realize how seriously I really do take it – it tried to take my life from me 5 times! Of course, I realize the seriousness of it. That’s the biggest reason I have this blog in the first place — to warn others of the seriousness of bipolar disorder, like when I talk about how 20% of people with it will kill themselves. I know, because my sister was one of those statistics.

However, I also want to offer encouragement, as well. The fact is that bipolar disorder does NOT have to kill us! The disorder CAN be managed, and we can live a relatively normal life in spite of it.

I’ve had several people post about medications not working for them and, unfortunately, that can steal your joy in your life – until you get on the right medication and attain stability. But for now, keep believing that you WILL eventually attain stability with your medications. It may not be pleasant right now, and it may be a struggle, but you can master it in the future. Just don’t give up hope for stability!

Many times, my posts are directed to others like me, who are stable and enjoy a normal life.

And so I ask the question, “Can you have bipolar disorder and still be happy?”

I know those people struggling with getting their medication right would definitely answer no, but I would offer this encouragement: It won’t always be that way. Many, many people with BP suffer at first with their medications, or even have to go on the “medication merry-go-round” for awhile, like I did. But once they found the right combination of medications for them, they were able to attain stability.

And my life is a happy one now. Now, I never said it was easy, it’s not. I have to do the work to maintain my stability and my happiness. You can’t control this disorder without putting some effort into it.

But I know me better than anyone else (except my husband) – I keep a daily journal where I record my thoughts and feelings, so that I can look back and notice patterns of bipolar behavior before an actual episode hits. I also keep a daily mood chart that can help me notice mood changes as well. Because of this, I am stable and happy, but I still don’t trust the BP, so I do the things I need to do in order to continue mastering it instead of the other way around. Bipolar disorder is a sneaky disorder, and can come upon you if you’re not ready for it and the devastation that an episode can bring.

I have coping techniques that I use to keep me stable. Like, I do crossword puzzles to help with the inevitable racing thoughts (whether in an episode or not). I adhere to a regular sleep schedule. I eat right. I go to a bipolar support group. My supporter (my husband) helps me as well. He won’t let me have more than one “bad bipolar day” without making me get out and do something I enjoy to battle the depression that sometimes hits.

I’ve never said that things would be perfect when you’re not in an episode. Far from it. Even people without the disorder have problems – we all do. In fact, in my journal yesterday I wrote, “Life would be boring without problems, wouldn’t it?” Now that does NOT mean that I like them – I hate having problems. But I do like how it feels when I’ve come up against one and come through on the other side.

And that’s what I say about depression, too. That you can make it through it to the other side. No matter how bad the episode, you will eventually come out of it and can be happy again. If you’ve made your life a happy one, and don’t dwell on the “could be’s.” It does not help to sit around just waiting for the next episode or watching for one around every corner. Go under the assumption that you are not going to have an episode (but still have a plan of what to do if you happen to go into one).

I now fill my life with positive things, where before I was depressed all the time. I do things I enjoy. I have my dog for unconditional love. My sons are grown, healthy, and doing well, and for that I am grateful. I live in a humble home, but it is my home. There was a time when I had none. I have a used car that runs pretty good right now (thank You, Lord). I have a close relationship with my mom, who also has bipolar disorder. I am also very spiritual. I have a great job working for www.bipolarcentral.com, where I get to work from home in a stress-free environment. And I have a few close friends.

So, yes, I have a happy life in spite of my bipolar disorder. It can be done.

The main thing is to learn how to master the disorder so that it stops mastering you.

Someone might say it’s easier for me to be happy, because look at my life. But look at the elements of my life before you judge. Look at all the effort I put into keeping it a stable, happy one. Because you can have one, too. It just isn’t going to be easy, but if you know that in advance, you can accept small setbacks when they happen.

This doesn’t mean I don’t ever lose sleep, or get depressed, or sometimes get a little manicky. I do. But I call those “bad bipolar days,” and I get through them the best I can. One thing I do NOT do is to assume just because I’ve had one bad day, that I’m in an episode.

One thing I learned from my suicide attempts – something will change the next day for you, something will be different, and probably better. Something. It might be just a small thing, but had I been successful in my attempts, I never would know the joy I have today.

I also keep looking forward, and with a positive attitude, in spite of my problems and in spite of my bipolar disorder. I always have something planned to look forward to. Now, I’m realistic as well, don’t get me wrong. The day I’ve been looking forward to may come and I may be depressed that day and not want to do anything. Then I deal with that, or have a Plan B in case it happens. But, again, I don’t automatically assume I’m in an episode.

Happiness, in my opinion, is a state of mind. And we have just as much right to it as someone who doesn’t struggle with bipolar disorder.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy (I have my books and my porcelain dolls), and with people that make you happy (your supporter, friends, loved ones). It’s much easier when you don’t have to fight this serious disorder by yourself.

It may be enough for some of you to know just that the possibility is there. I wish someone had told me that I could be happy someday in spite of my bipolar disorder, because it was a real struggle for me in the beginning. I just want you to know that yes, BP is a serious disorder, but you can get stable, and you can get happy anyway. It just may take some time.

I have been stable for quite a while now, and definitely enjoy my life. I will always have bipolar disorder (barring a cure), but I don’t have to let it rule over me or determine whether I am happy or not.

Wishing you peace and stability,

Remember God loves you and so do I,

Michele

10 Responses to “Can You Have Bipolar Disorder and Still Be Happy?”

  1. zee says:

    Thank you so much for this! I was also diagnosed with bipolar almost a year ago, but I still really really hope somehow it’s not true. I knew I was having a depression but after I first started taking antidepressants, there were 3 days when I felt hyper and couln’t sleep, so that apperantly means this is probably bipolar.
    The beginning involved lots of crying and sulking about my misery, and the constant thinking that I was a “damaged” person and expecting horrible things to happen in the future. Only after I was told by a therapist I visited once, that I am overthinking things and am being way too pathalogical about this, I realized that it is the diagnosis that brings me down, not the actual sypthomes. the constant thinking about this disorder and dreading I have no chance for the future is what makes me miserable.
    When I put that aside, I actually feel good, I keep going on with my life, and really appreciate what I have. I am happy, and this whole depression experience has made me more open to trying new things and be more present. This can change when I start digging again the information about bipolar, and mostly you find the negatives. However you inspired me – I’m so happy to see that you are coping so well. I wish there were more positive messages out there like yours.

  2. Michele says:

    Zee–

    I’m so pleased that you found my post a positive and encouraging one, as that is what my goal is. I do not believe that bipolar disorder is a death sentence. If you go to http://www.bipolarcentral.com, you’ll find more positive articles that might help you. Also, read through some of my old posts, as they will help you as well. The biggest thing is to remember that YOU ARE NOT YOUR DISORDER! There is still a real, creative, intelligent, positive, successful and someday stable YOU inside there! Don’t let the bipolar steal your identity from you, and don’t be intimidated by the disorder. With practice, you will learn how to manage it instead of it managing you. Good luck, and God bless.
    Michele

  3. Matt says:

    I don’t understand how you can separate yourself from Bi-Polar. I look in the mirror now and I haven’t got a clue who I am, I don’t recognise myself or have any idea what my personality is.

    To me, there is no separating myself from Bi-Polar as I can no longer remember who I used to be before I had it.

  4. diazepam says:

    I think your opinions are quite interesting, I enjoy reading what you write. Hope to hear more from you. Subscribed.

  5. Bobby says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I am also living a good stable lifestyle living with BP, even though yes it was a hard long struggle at the beginning to get where I am, I’m so thankful to be alive everyday and make the most out of it all!

  6. Wes says:

    I am a 20 year old student living in florida and I was recently diagnosed as bipolar. I have the worst mood swings, ranging from euphoria and intense mania, to the worst depression you could imagine, and crying all day for no reason. I am never ever angry and I seem to always look at the positives in life but when one of my epiosodes hit, everything changes and I am suicidal. Everytime I’m depressed I think about dying and how easy it would be and I have no one to talk to. My parents think i just have a fucked up brain (already said exact words) and my friends just don’t want to hang around a depressed person all the time. when I get hyper people just think im on drugs.

    I was perscribed abilify and it made things worse…but im still looking for the right medicine. This post helped and I hope everyone on here with BP disorder the best

  7. tracy says:

    I just read a post from Wes. I am much older and was only just recently diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I have been medicted for depression for years and it took many difficult and negtive trys for me to find one that worked for me. i am saddened by Wes, ecause when I look back on my life I believe that I have had this since I was in my twenties. I had no idea that I had this, but I always knew I was different. People around me knew. I pray that Wes see his message becaue I was not helped at all by my parents at all. They only hurt me and thought I was crazy. I still srughle, but I think that hs a lot to do with being dignosed in my late forties. i truly believe being diagnosed in todays world will make a huge difference. i did go on to find a wondeful husbamd and I have raised three very normal kids into adulthood. i know Wes and others struggling at a young age can do it too. I thank you michelle for your up lifting message as I still struggle with long lasting harmony with my moods. God bless.

  8. Dominic says:

    I enjoyed your writting.My biggest prob is in relationships.My mood swings destroy them over time.I want to be happy but more than 1 girlfriend has told me I dont.I hate that I put whover Im with on pins and needles.My meds seem to work well most of the time,I know without them Im a danger to myself and others.I am going to try to be more positive thanks for your words—-

  9. Leslie says:

    I’ve had bp for 2 decades now and I’ve learned that you can “sneak up” on most medications without suffering failure. There are incredibly good anti-psych drugs now. If one doesn’t work, another one likely will. When you are suicidal, see if you can manage to get away for a week and visit the emergency room knowing you may need to stay a bit.

    If a counselor is terrible, he or she is terrible and likely there is another that is just fine. I’ve had 3 terriffic and 8 horrible. Same with Psychiatrists. Some are just ridiculous. Try another. If you stay feeling emotionally ill check things like your thyroid and hormones. Sometimes when I feel “off” I compare it to when I’ve been dehydrated. Something is just “wrong”. Then it’s time for some blood tests.

    If you keep dwelling on what is emotionally painful there are terriffic things you can do to get out of the ruminating your counselor can learn about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_movement_desensitization_and_reprocessing It works! It really does. It’s for those with what seem to have trauma disorders. Emotional trauma can be diagnosed because bipolar creates it’s own trauma.

    I went 2 and a half years just fine, then I messed up on my meds when I just wasn’t paying attention, then wasn’t right for quite a while.

    But get the right doctors and counselors and I highly recommend a PSR and a Case Worker.

  10. Olivia says:

    I’m happy to hear there is some hope, because I’ve started to feel like I can never be happy. Before I was on my current medication I had out of control violent fits of rage and I was horribly self destructive. I would cut myself, and I overdosed on medication two or three times. I pushed away everyone, ruined my family relationships, and scared everyone away from me and basically asked to be bullied, because I was so out there and abnoxious and inappropriate, because I was so out of control manic. Now that I’m on this medication things are a lot more sane (esp me) but I feel dead inside. My friend even commented on how I used to be more fun and now I’m just lifeless. I still hate myself for the things I did when I was manic, and also for being to lazy and afraid to make any positive changes in my life. I am miserable, but people close to me try to tell me how much better I am doing. It just makes me feel like I’m not allowed to be happy or feel ‘alive’ because I will just go out of control and be destructive again. I go to therapy, and even though I love my therapist, it’s hard for me to listen to her advice. I’m afraid and lazy and discouraged so nothing changes. I can’t find a job either. I don’t know what to do.

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