Thursday, June 12, 2014

Open Letter to You, A Bipolar

Dear Fellow Bipolar,

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about all the various projects I love to do, such as creative writing, graphic design, web design, book cover design and app development. She said to me, "Of course, you do all that, you're bipolar. Bipolars are tremendously creative!" 

Suddenly, it occurred to me how I used to believe that going on medication would stifle my creativity, which seems to be the consensus in most of the bipolar community. But, I thought it would be helpful to tell people that the opposite has been the case for me. I'm more focused and so I'm more capable and I am more free to be creative.

No one wants to be on medications. I fought them. A doctor told me and my parents when I was sixteen that I would have to be on medications my entire life. After feeling the absolute numbing effects, the weight gain, the stomach problems and many other issues, I said, "Absolutely not." I believe that over the span of age 16-36, I was on medications about six years, and that was not consecutively. My life during those years was a casualty. It did not turn out the way I wanted, either in career or family life.

You see, what I did not understand was that it takes time to adjust to medications- like several months, or even years sometimes. You need to be patient and bipolars aren't good at that. You will probably need a cocktail of medications. It is extremely rare that only one medication will work on its own. And you will have side effects. And you will hate them. And you will NOT feel creative. Yet, I promise you that this will pass.

I also promise you that your creativeness will come back and your artistic freedom and ability will amaze you.

Staying on medications is better than frequent hospitalizations. It's better than a series of shallow, failed relationships, or blowing money and going into bankruptcy over and over again. It's better than suicide, and the frequency of bipolars killing themselves without medications is about one in five.

Do you want to stay alive? Do you want a life worth living? Then persevere with medications until they work for you.

Over time, I've learned not to take on too many projects or life ceases to be fun and my creative ability becomes too constricted. You see, I'm not in the creative arts business for the money. As much as I love new things sometimes, I've learned that money isn't going to make me happy and it actually adds nothing to my overall quality of life. I want to support myself and have money for the things I need, but I'm mostly in it for the fun and I try to use my abilities to be of service to God at the same time. That is greatly freeing.

I couldn't do that as an unmedicated bipolar. No, as an unmedicated bipolar, I always took on way too much, to the point of nervous breakdown later. I was too pulled and stretched in too many directions to really do anything well. And I was drawn to quick and flashy things that usually involved spending money and taking ridiculous risks.

As a bipolar, you have immense potential. Unfortunately, all of that potential is usually wasted because most people do not stay on medications.  Don't let that happen to you.

Nine years now of staying steadily on meds and five years stable. Four years of knowing it was worth it and waiting patiently through the process of getting it right, even though it seemed to take forever. Even during those first four years of shakiness, waiting for the right drug combo to be discovered, the quality of my life was better. And for the past five, it's gotten immeasurably better.

It's worth it. You are worth it.

The depth of high and low is still inside me, believe it or not. I can still sense and draw from the extremes. Yet they don't define my life experience or who I am and they do not control me. That's how medications have helped me. I am more content. I am happier. I have huge fun creating things and my creativeness does not overwhelm or control me. 

Right now, at this very moment, I have exactly the life I want. I am content. And I am still growing. 

I am writing this now because I want that for you, too.

Laura Paxton

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