It’s an odd title I know. What can possibly be good about bipolar disorder? Well, absolutely nothing when you’re in the depths of depression or spinning around manically. But there can be great benefits from having an illness, including a mental illness, and there are some that I’ve found in my life from having bipolar.
- I’ve learned how to say no. If you are good at something, like work, then people ask you to do more. It builds up over time. I’ve learnt to say no. I can’t. I have bipolar. Sorry.
- I don’t worry about what I’m going to wear, and I don’t have to keep track of my clothes cycle. I don’t care what I’m going to eat for dinner, whether I need a bigger television or a new car. If I didn’t have bipolar these things might continue to consume me as they once did.
- My marriage is far stronger today than it would have been if I didn’t have bipolar. Apparently 90% of marriages where one partner has bipolar end in divorce. That is truly tragic and saddening. My wife had lots of reasons to leave me when I was ill for prolonged periods, but she stayed even though she didn’t understand what was wrong with me. Her perseverance has been a blessing to our marriage.
- I have great relationships with my kids and time with them is invaluable. Unfortunately most Dads don’t spend more than a few minutes a day giving their kids undivided attention. Learning that I had bipolar was a good wake-up call. I now spend more time on things that are important to me.
- I’ve slowed down a lot. I stopped wearing a watch some years ago and haven’t missed it. Losing track of time rarely causes problems; if I’m 10 or 15 minutes late for the doctor, it doesn’t matter. He works to the same system anyway.
- I take my physical health more seriously than I used to. I’m frustrated by my lack of action on exercise, but I’m thinking about physical health every day, even when its hard to follow through with action.
- I’ve always been very open about having a mental illness, and I’ve actually never felt the stigma that is so widespread. I’m fortunate in that respect. When I converted to Christianity about 20 years ago I lost most of my good friends who had an issue with it. Since I’ve been telling people that I have bipolar I’ve gained at least the same number. Go figure.
- I’ve learned to be thankful for what I have and not yearn for what I don’t.
- The best thing must be the ability to empathize with others who are facing the same problems.
- I was once very guarded with what I said, often checking myself from saying anything that could offend or impact a person’s view of me. I’ve really lightened up and feel liberated. I’m rarely inappropriate (except when ill), but even if I am, I sense that nobody really cares.
In the Bible, in Romans 5:3-4 it says:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
- Being engaged with the world is good. I think more deeply about things like inequality, poverty, the environment and mental illness. (The downside of course is feeling let down by those in positions of power who continually fail us.)
- Life is absurd. My life is absurd. I’ve learned to laugh at both.
We have some friends who for many years had a very, very messy house. 3 young girls – cooking, dress-ups, paint, craft, clothes, toys – you know the rest. They would unashamedly invite friends over for meals, joking that they offered an important service to other parents. It helped their friends feel better about their own messy houses.
In a similar vein I found this in another blog:
“When you’re mentally ill you are constantly doing social work just by existing. I realize that often, when you’re crazy you actually need social services for yourself, but just by talking about yourself to people who aren’t feeling that great about themselves, you are able to instantly make them feel glad they aren’t you. That’s a great service to offer.”
A final word is that I definitely don’t have it all together, and I still have episodes now and then – although less severe – in both directions. I didn’t write this post to give a different impression, but just to put some ideas out there for looking at illness from a different angle.