How does one possibly handle the news that they will live the rest of their life with…wait for it…bipolar disorder?
Oh shit. God no, don’t let it be true. I’ll be judged, I’ll be talked about, I’ll be chained and locked down, and everything I’ve ever worked for in my life will be stolen from me. I’ll be ruined.
I don’t recall ever selecting the MENTALLY ILL box when I completed the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up” test when I was in 3rd grade. So, like many others, I wasn’t prepared for being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I wasn’t ready to be labeled by a chart number, categorized as having a Serious Mental Illness, and considered a high-risk patient for insurance companies to cover.
What if my employer uncovers this secret sickness of mine, and they can me out of fear that I might catapult myself out the window, or explode like a loose cannon when they are least expecting it?
I did not sign up for this kind of life.
I was SO angry. Like the type of anger that makes the veins in your eyes pulsate. I was angry that I had to care about something that didn’t previously affect me. Out of sight, out of mind. It wasn’t my problem, and mental illness diagnoses were held solely for those OTHER people.
I was angry that I wasn’t strong enough to fight it. I felt that if I had enough courage, channeled my inner badass, and turned on my heavy, sometimes problematic stubbornness, I could conquer bipolar disorder. I could win.
I could take it down with one fell swoop, and smear that mood disorder into the ground. I’d humiliate it and stomp on its limbs, just as it had done to me. I’d gloat that I’d fallen victim to nothing.
So how do you deal with that type of anger? How do you see through the red with hopes that other colors of the rainbow actually exist?
Get pissed. Yell, scream, and cry. Stomp your feet and let the curse words fly if you must.
Because there it is. Anger. It’s overbearing, unjustified and relentless. It doesn’t give a damn if it’s capsizing the life you once felt you had control of.
Anger couldn’t care less that it makes you feel sick while you ball up fists imagining taking out a wall of concrete with your bare hands. Unfortunately, it may not leave until you’ve first given anger the stage to be heard. Front and center, loud and clear.
With cocky steps and its head held high, anger parades around in your mind in an annoyingly proud and boastful way. It craves to remain in the spotlight…that is, unless you kill the lights and unplug the speakers. How long will you allow anger to envelop the stage and suck the energy from your already exhausted body and mind?
Don’t let it stand between you and recovery, because it will if you allow it to. Acknowledge your anger and know that it is there for a reason. Provide yourself with a somewhat limited amount of time to feel and express all of the emotions that reside within you. It makes absolute and total sense that you feel angry.
I know it hurts, and it’s painful, and feels so overwhelming that the air actually tastes thicker than it once did before. Refrain from staying in this place where anger heats up your soul and closes off your heart. The longer you allow it to take residency within you, the further away you will be from finding stability, acceptance, and happiness.
Letting go of my anger has allowed me to live a life in which I can celebrate my past because it’s led me to find purpose in my present. I know I’m strong enough to endure and overcome anger should it make another attempt to take center stage.
This time, I’m the one holding the microphone.
Erin Callinan, MSW
Consultant, Speaker, Author
Beneath The Brave