Letting go of the past always sounded so cliché to me—I never took it to heart because I didn’t realize I was clinging to years gone by or the multitude of experiences I’d encountered throughout my life. For more than 35 years, I’ve been struggling with bipolar disorder, and frankly, it has been an exhausting journey. I’d love to report “I manage bipolar disorder,” as the facilitator of my local Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) support group states every week. But to be honest, the illness has nearly always managed me instead of the other way around.
It’s not that I haven’t tried everything in the book to combat the debilitating symptoms of depression or push down the temptation to fly sky high during the near-delusional cycles of hypomania. I cannot think of one medication I haven’t tried—I’ve taken such a multitude of psychotropic drugs I can’t even remember them all. In fact, when my psychiatrist suggests I revisit a med I’ve taken before, it takes about 30 minutes of research to go back and review my records. We seek to discover how I fared on the drug, how long I took it, and the reason why I ultimately moved on to something else.
And then there are all the treatments I’ve endured. As I mentioned, I have searched and attempted everything I could find. The Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) therapies all provided temporary relief, but the benefits weren’t ever sustained, so I simply kept moving along to something else. My most recent ongoing treatments of Spravato (Ketamine Nasal Spray) have been the most effective of all. But even with this whiz-bang treatment, I’ve found myself falling into the patterns of cycling a bit too high following a crash into severe depression.
Recently, I was listening to musician John Mayer croon about his journey of self-discovery, and as he wrote, “I’m in repair; I’m not together but I’m getting there,” something dawned on me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this song In Repair, but I’ve never paused to really hear the message he so eloquently conveyed.
The lyrics “Oh, it’s taking so long, I could be wrong, I could be ready. If I took my heart’s advice, I should assume it’s still unsteady,” paints a clearer picture now than ever before. And, just as he discovered, my intentions to alter my perspective are simply that: just intentions. I now realize there’s a very long road ahead. Ups, downs, and little bits of stability here and there will accompany me as I traverse through my own discovery and subsequent growth.
But yes, I’m still holding onto hope that one day I will confidently report I am managing my illness. That I’ve accepted it and am living with it instead of simply existing through the inevitable cycles. My brain may not be programmed like others, but that doesn’t mean I have to succumb to old habits of allowing myself to be controlled by this invisible illness. Just like any other computer glitch I occasionally encounter, I’ll be able to stop, reboot, and restart my life—and reap the benefits of progressing even further.