Is Life Ever Normal for a Person with Bipolar?
A normal life is something I’m not very familiar with. I’ve never really had one. From the time I was a kid with an alcoholic father, to the teenage years I spent depressed, to my adult years dealing with psychiatrists, symptoms and medication side effects, I’ve never really enjoyed anything termed normalcy.
But the question is, does anyone with bipolar enjoy a normal life?
What’s a Normal Life?
Now, people will tell me that there’s no such thing as a normal life. These people are wrong. There is such a thing as normalcy. You might think of it as the “average.” There’s always an average and yes, there is an average life. I would say the average life, a normal life, consists of happiness, sadness, anger, glee, and other emotions all wrapped into one. But these emotions are moderated. They run a reasonable spectrum as do experiences. In a normal life, people are generally well. People do not have to fight every day to stay alive. People don’t have to worry about brain altering medications. People do not concern themselves with psychiatrists. People do not have to track every mood. The normal life is outside of all these things.
Well, that depends on who you ask. I talk to a lot of people with bipolar disorder and I would say that a life with bipolar is a life that is, at least in part, dictated by bipolar. It’s a life where bipolar needs to be taken into account almost every moment in the day. It’s a life where medications and routines and sleep and food and exercise and therapy and doctor’s appointments all must be made the priority. It’s a life that may contain normal elements, but sure the heck also contains abnormal elements. Emotions tend to be extreme. Coping mechanisms must continually be applied. People must use the tools they learn in therapy all the time. It’s a life that cannot be separated from the illness.
Bipolar is Like That
But bipolar is like that. Bipolar is an illness of the brain. Your brain is in every part of your life and so is the bipolar. Persistent, serious, long-standing illnesses creep into every aspect of your life. But this is on purpose. This creeping into your life is what needs to happen if you plan to stay well. You need to control for the bipolar variable all the time, everywhere. So it makes your life really abnormal.
Have I Ever Had a Normal Life?
That being said, for some people, they can get away with just thinking about their bipolar sometimes. They might be able to go days without it seriously entering into the consciousness. When things are going well, this is possible. When medications are working, this can happen. When you’re in remission, bipolar doesn’t have to be at the forefront of every moment.
But as for me, this rarely occurs. Things rarely “go well” for any extended period of time. If I forgot about my bipolar (which I never do) that would just lead to it coming back with a vengeance. If I didn’t use all those fancy coping mechanisms and therapeutic tools and medications and whatnot my bipolar would just come back all the stronger. So I can’t forget about it. It’s a constant battle. Ignore that battle at your own peril.
But that is just me. Do you think your life is like everyone else’s? Do you have a “normal” life? Is it even possible?
Tracy, N. (2013, June 25). Is Life Ever Normal for a Person with Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/06/is-life-ever-normal-for-a-person-with-bipolar
Author: Natasha Tracy
I'm sorry, I can't recommend a specific medication, especially with so few details. What I can say is that if you haven't already, you should see an addiction specialist as they will likely help you the most.
- Natasha Tracy
Many medications may be useful in that situation. Typically, an antipsychotic is given if the person is diagnosed with psychosis (delusions and/or hallucinations). If not, a mood stabilizer may be tried first. You can find out about bipolar disorder treatment options (medications and other) here: https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-treatment/bipolar-treatment-treatment-of-bipolar-disorder/
As for support groups, yes, many people do find them helpful. It helps to connect with others in the same situation who will "get" what you're talking about. (As a loved one, you may want to go to a support group yourself.)
- Natasha Tracy
I went through very moderate highs and lows until 38, at which time I had 3 young children, married and owned a home with a successful business and a full time job. The stress of it all got to me and I went into mania, I got medication relatively quickly and then went into a mild form of depression.
Now I am left realising stress pushes me into the high and then I cycle back into a corresponding low. The lithium helps but I think it keeps you in a more depressed state, but I would prefer this to going back to mania.
Bipolar now more than ever makes me question my mood and if my decisions are the right ones, but I am glad I have insight into the illness but still it leaves me uneasy.
I just don't think Bipolar is easy but if you are cognitive and insightful you can lead a relatively normal life as long as you consider, reflect and get counselling and pdoc, but it need not be a full time obsession.
That's just for my circumstance and I consider all bipolar experiences to be individual and different.
Taking what it can from us so that you we're left in the wood
Trying to get back,to have some chance to carry out what one needs to do,
To keep your life from going askew.
Its a simple endeavour,its just cleaning up!
yeah,but thats so unnecessary when one feels they cant wash a cup
Take me devil illness,give me your toughest shot
dont forget theres a lot of us in this together fighting so you dont leave us rot.
I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder august of this year.Im 34 and have been battling this illness since im 17.
For years i was on an anti depressant.Unknown to myself i was going from depression to hypomanic phase year after year.I wasnt on the right treatment and the depressions were hard,debilitating,im goin through an episode at the moment.Give me a hypomanic episode anyday over the depressed ones.
This year i swung from high to low several times after starting a new depressant as old one was having no effect.
So now im on lithium 800mgs.It wasnt enough and i ended up in hospital.I am on abilify5mgs and other ones including lithium 25mgs with moves to titrate it higher.im a bit better since coming out of hospital but feel ive a way to go to feel better.
I put it down to being on tge wrong treatment for so long.i have hope ill be better and conquer this,i need that hope.i want to believe it.
There are many many highly successful and very happy people out there managing bipolar disorder.
Can anybody inform kindly bipolar can lives normal life with medication? Is it possible to control without medication? My email address is email@example.com
Was abused as a child which taught me inner strength and discernment.
Stigma of mental illness has taught me not to let pride stand in my way, yet at the same time to always believe in myself despite what ignorant people might say or do to try to damage my self esteem
On a good day bipolar has also taught me hope/faith, courage, patience/endurance, to be less judgemental and a little more compassionate than I could have otherwise learned to be without this mental illness...
I wish everyone the very best! =)
After being "high-functioning" for 25 years, I was lucky enough to get a disability pension. Life is quieter now and I can indulge my passion for singing. I avoid my mother back in UK as she has no sympathy for bipolar and is a toxic influence. Here in Belgium I have some good friends. I do a lot of facebooking, emailing etc. and sites such as Healthy Place (Natasha is tops) as well as seeing my psychiatrist every week. I have a cleaner and a financial administrator and occasionally see a social worker from my old employer. I go to a friendly church and I've found my new faith helps too. There are a lot of "normal" people there too - alongside oddballs like me. I feel cosy and protected at home with my cats and TV though I try to get out and get involved in choirs, see community theatre and go out with girlfriends to the cinema etc. I'm 61 and have given up dating, which keeps me calmer. I plan to write a memoir of my comi-tragic pa... one day, but don't want to stress out about it. Keep cool!
My bipolar doesn't. However, I know it is there. I have my coping mechanisms in place. I'm in tuned to my moods and it things are off kilter I know to pay attention!
So do I think about it all the time, No. But it is always there, it's in the back of my mind. It is a part of me. I accept it as such. I live with it. I know when I'm under a lot of stress to really pay attention to how I'm dealing with things. Most importantly I really pay attention to my emotions. If I feel things are off, I do something about it. I call my doctor, I call my therapist, I do my mindfulness practices and really pay attention to me and figure out..."is this an acceptable reaction, or am I over the top?" "is this me?" yes I ask myself that...I think of the emotions I have when they are bipolar emotions as not "my" emotions they are caused by my illness. I think this helped me a lot when I was coming to terms with my illness. I had no qualms about talking my medication, or doing everything I could to get rid of the emotions the illness caused..they weren't mine. I have perfectly good emotions all on my own! :-) I know the signs when I'm getting to the point where I don't want to be.
I'm glad I don't have to really think about it every day. Perhaps it's because I've been relatively stable for 20 years. And because I am very mindful of how I feel.
Yes I've had a few times when I've had some breaks with my meds, I've noticed my emotions going off, and I've gotten help. I've had a couple of times it was hard to get regulated with new meds but we got it right. Now that I practice mindfulness meditation and mindfulness practices everyday, I have been able to reduce my medication.
This has been the best coping mechanism I have found.
as you said though....there are different levels of bipolar illness, and people react differently to medications. We all need to use our coping mechanisms and stay in tuned to ourselves.
I do want to say something about the first poster....everyone is so mad at her. Remember...she may not want to admit her diagnosis. Perhaps she is in a time when things are going good. We are often quick to judge those who we feel are judging us. try to feel compassion for those who do not understand too. or who may be fighting themselves.
After the period of mourning there came a feeling of acceptance. I came to terms with my illness. This didn't mean that I wanted it. Nor did it mean that I had given up the fight. Coming to accept my illness meant that now I had some tools to help me. I learnt to live just for the present day, neither expecting too much or too little of myself. I learnt to plan and live my life IN SPITE of my illness, to the best of my ability.
Because I have probably been ill all of my life, including during my childhood, I feel that bipolar has become integrated into my personality. Does that mean I live by a defining label? Yes and no. In some ways I feel that there have been times when I have let the illness work in my favour - in my art work, writing, and when I studied for a degree as a therapist, although my studying took longer than it should have done, due to the depressive episodes.
Bipolar has limited me, yes, and I have had to learn to live within those limitations, but in other ways it has also enriched my life. It has given me an outlook and attitude towards life that I know for sure I wouldn't have developed if I hadn't been ill. It has taught me to be compassionate, not only towards others, but towards myself too. It has taught me true self esteem is possible even in the most adverse circumstances, if it comes from WITHIN, from loving oneself unconditionally. I have learnt to love myself even during those awful times in the depths of a deep depression, when my self esteem seems to be at an all time low, by holding on to that tiny glimmer of hope, that knowledge that this too shall pass, that in spite of, or maybe BECAUSE of, this illness, I am a beautiful, worthy human being, as are we all. I wouldn't have been able to come to this position if I had been well. I really feel that I have been enriched in some ways by this illness.
Yes, I wish I didn't have it, but I have to accept that I do, and live within its limitations. Nothing I do can change my illness or make it go away. I understand that there will be times when I struggle with meds, ensuring the right dose etc, and that there will be times when my depression hits with a vengeance or my judgement will be severely compromised during a high. There will be times when I will feel level, wondering if this is how "normal" feels, grabbing onto those times with a tenacious,desperate and hungry greed, because, even if they last for months or years, they will surely pass.
To Jackie, who said
"Maybe I am not bipolar as my diagnosis indicates. Maybe I am in remission. My life is almost always normal – except when it’s not and that has not been the case for a long time. I wonder if people who are always thinking about their illness need it for their identity."
I'm truly happy that you're in remission at the moment. We all strive for remission, hence our preoccupation with meds and our continued awareness on a day to day basis of our illness. I understand that during a remission or even during a period of hypomania it can be all too easy to FORGET. I certainly have in the past, especially when I was in denial. I truly hope that you remain in remission. I don't want to be alarmist, but would advise you to please guard against complacency, and be aware of the sneaky, insiduous nature of this disorder, how it can creep up slowly. These people don't want to live by labels, and they sincerely wish they didn't have to struggle. This is why they didn't take too kindly to your remark. I don't believe you're a troll or that you truly understood the impact of your comment. Please understand that whilst YOU are having an easy ride at the moment, that this might not always be the case, and that there will come a time when you can see it from their perspective. I wish all of you guys well.
It is what is, unfortunately, and I think most people would probably change it if they could. In fact, that is what most people are here for. To learn more about bipolar disorder and how to cope with its reality.
I strive daily to keep a balance to let the emotions and thoughts play out as they need to but stay grounded enough to follow what I know is right. My brain can be my enemy, many times it is. But beauty comes from my brain as well. Beauty comes from Bipolar too. I feel more deeply, love more wholly and find ways to use my compassion to help others when and where I can. Normal is a setting on a washing machine. I don't need normal. I need love, kindness and joy whenever I can find it.
The less I see the doctor and therapist etc, the less I think about having bipolar, and the more "normal" my life is. I often think, and I think this is correct (for me), that seeing mental health professionals causes the same harm that ruminating over my troubles can cause - a negative focus, and makes me feel a whole lot worse about my losses and how I am a labelled individual. I think dumping mental health "help" would be the best thing for my mental health, but I need them to fill out my paperwork because I'm disabled and any possible improvement almost for sure won't be enough to go back to work even part time. I will add that my providers are all nice people who are trying to help.
I agree that coping strategies are exhausting, and focused on being mentally ill. Fishing, reading and hot baths work for me now that I'm off the agitating drugs, and are NOT something I was taught we mentally ill people need to do to cope, so I don't get sucked into thinking about bipolar all the time anymore. I really think that adds to the distress - thinking about it all the time.
During the very bad depressions, my life is in no way "normal." Interestingly, I spend less time in those very severe depressions now that I'm off these mental drugs. I think they destroyed my ability to function so very thoroughly that the prescribed drugs destroyed most of what was important to me, adding more to my depressions. But I am only speculating on that part.
But then, I am not an authority - that is just MY experience. Good luck. Keep working at it.
Thank you for the encouragement. :) I have tried to put off seeing a doctor specifically because I want to avoid the pill-pushing if I can. Right now I cope by trying to keep things as structured and stress-free as possible and with a whole lot of self-talk that I guess could be considered a very basic kind of cognitive behavioral therapy. I never knew much about CBT until I read about it in a blog and realized that it's pretty much what I've been doing all along.
The problem is that it's so exhausting. And from the sounds of it (judging by what I've read here) that doesn't change even with medication. Is that the case?
I'm about to have a lot more responsibility placed on me at my job, and if meds would help me get off the roller coaster of "I can't do this, I'm so dumb and worthless, Everyone is going to know that I don't know anything, I'm going to get fired and be the laughingstock of the world, It's all hopeless and I should just end it, But wait - I can do anything, There's no reason I can't do this, I'm as smart as everyone else, But maybe not that guy, I'm a failure, Everyone's going to know I'm a failure...", I'd be willing to look into taking them. Because I'm assuming that a constant stream of thoughts like that is not "normal".
Honestly, every human living in today's hectic world is bound to have some issues and most psychiatrists are happy to diagnose some disorder and start throwing pills at you, even though most people just need some therapy. You will know when you are truly sick because the "I don't think I can"s will turn into "I can't"s.
I wouldn't wish bipolar on my worst enemy and I hate that you are experiencing symptoms. (It does say a lot that you identify so well with these posts.) Although I think seeking therapy first can be helpful, one should never wait to the point they are suicidal to see a doctor.
Whether anyone says you're "normal" or not, know there are people out there to listen who care and you are not alone.
That's the point, isn't it?
I don't necessarily want to be diagnosed as bipolar, but I'd love to have some concrete explanation for why I can't seem to handle the little everyday stuff that everyone else barely even pays attention to. I find myself wondering how many other people are like me and also just doing a good job of hiding it.
I just came off about a month of "up" days, where I pretty much thought only in poems and felt sure that people must be dazzled by my brightness when they looked at me, because surely it was showing in my eyes and in every word I wrote. I wanted to believe that I was just finally "happy", but I knew it was not normal. Some friends of mine said that maybe I'm just a depressed person who is very creative. But now I'm back down, and there are no words. Just the fighting with myself every night at work and every day to find reasons to keep going, to make myself do simple things at home like cook and clean and pay bills. You don't know how much it means to find other people who can't face paying bills. I thought I was just - well, crazy. :(
So this is an interesting read, and one I needed today. "Normal" is something I wonder about all the time. Because I don't feel one bit normal. When I see the lives of the people I know, I'm not like them. And I always wonder what's wrong with me.
Also what constitutes a stressful situation varies from person to person. I've seen girls have major breakdowns because their hairdresser "messed up" their hair. That, personally, slides off my back, but then again, I don't know why hair is particularly touchy for that person, nor is it my place to tell them what is important to them.
Getting out of bed, eating, getting dressed, socializing, and every other simple thing that occurs in a day is more difficult for me (if not impossible) than for anyone else I know. Sometimes I try to tell myself that I'm "not that bad" or "somewhat normal", but watching others reminds me of the truth. I doubt I will ever be like them and honestly, I'm jealous.
I'm not saying people who aren't mentally ill don't have their own problems because surely they do. They are just very different problems and other "normal" people can empathize with them.
I used to have a successful career, also in a high stress environment, and it nearly killed me--most especially when I was wrongfully fired. It's been a crazy two years since then, some of it stable, but mostly not. I'm now ending my 3rd week in a row of stability, and that has been unprecedented in the last two years. I plan on reestablishing my career at some point in some way; there are actually a lot of possibilities. I have to do it bit by bit so as not to take on more than I can handle, but I certainly don't anticipate remaining on SSD forever.
Just take care of yourself and you'll be ok.
After recent life threatening events and a lifetime of reacting to emotions, I made an appointment with at the local mental health unit. The psychiatrist suspected a mixture of personality disorder and referred me to a psychologist. A number of months ago my GP prescribed antidepressants to treat a severe depression. After a few appointments with the psychologist (he has a doctorate), he is strongly suspecting Bipolar 1.
How individualized can bipolar be? I've always been introverted except during possible manic episodes) but never presented like the stereotype of a manic episode with rapid/forced speech or delusions so intense that reality was completely lost. I still met the DSM V criteria even without those descriptors.
I am in remission currently for about 2 weeks with little emotional reactiveness and sticking to a healthy lifestyle. I find I am nervous with every feeling that ripples my concsiousness as if it could be the start of an up or down.
I feel like I'm on vacation but I'm not enjoying it because the weather isn't perfect.
I see a resevoir of experience in the organic community Natasha has created; please help me map out the land mines of the diagnosis process. Life is short and I don't want to waste another season reacting to feelings.
How is it possible that I have a successful career in an extremely high stress position? Does that contradict other's experience with the illness?
I really like everything that you said and how you did it. There's an external average, but the normal is really as applied to each individual. I have my normal, you have your normal; but those two things could be vastly different. (I do have bipolar I disorder, btw, and severe adhd, ocd, and generalized anxiety).
It's interesting to think about the average. Because mathematically, what is it? It's the number achieved when the sum of however many members ranging high, low, and in between is divided by the number of members.
So in order to even arrive at an average or norm, the abnormal, the outlyers, have to be included.
I will never be a societal norm, partly by choice with some beliefs and also genetically, medically, etc. BUT, without me or people like me, or in similar circumstances, there would be no average or normal to compute.
I could continue developing this "thought work" of mine here, or generate counter arguments too, but I don't feel like it right now. lol. Too much work. The first "part," so to speak, was completely spontaneous.
With that, I will sign my weird self off, but not before I say that I've actually been doing rather well lately--3 pretty good weeks in a row! Unprecedented for me in basically the past year. YaY! We'll see how long it lasts, but at least I'm not feeling the edge of when the other shoe will drop me into a mixed state.
wellness to all,
I dislike the word normal and the connotations of it when connected to mental health. It increases stigma. We don't need to be whatever we may feel (stress that word)society deems as "normal"
That said, an interesting post with equally interesting comments.
People think of their illness mainly because they are struggling to understand it and manage it. Simple as that.