Living Life as a Taboo: Looking from Within - Being Bipolar

This is the first entry in what I hope will become a regular feature to this blog; it's called 'Living Life as a Taboo.' Its purpose and aim, I believe, is self-explanatory...

The following text was written by a friend, Wm. Andrew Turman:

"This illness will be the death of me yet!" That is something I am fond of saying when I refer to my particular mental illness, Bipolar Disorder. The reverse is also true: "This illness will be the life of me!" It is not easy to be Bipolar. I struggle daily with pain, despair and loneliness that you can only imagine. I also experience joy, insight and creativity that you, a person without a mental disorder, cannot begin to touch.

It has not been easy. I have been hospitalized at least 50 times over the past 25 years. I have tried just about every medication on the market. I have gone through almost every psychotherapy approach imaginable. I have endured 45 electroshock treatments. But I have found only one thing that has really helped me in my journey: determination and grit.

It is not easy to navigate the mental health system to get what one needs. I tire of constantly demanding what I think might keep me well. But know this: I now want to be well. I don't want to be mentally ill. It takes constant vigilance on my part to keep a toe-hold in this world, to keep from drifting into my own version of reality, which is quite different from yours.

I have not worked in the past 6 1/2 years. I have a Master's degree in Special Education. Just this past week, I had a job opportunity to become a janitor, and the interview went well! I will pour my heart and soul into the work of cleaning toilets, just as I did into working with a classroom full of students. Why? Because it is a stepping stone to a life of fulfillment.

The keys to staying well, I have found, can be simple: take my medications, stay on a sleep schedule, eat right and exercise. I also have my painting and writing that allow me to take my pain and joy and express them in an acceptable manner.

I have a long journey, without a map, without companionship, without much light. It is hard, but I choose to go on, because I am basically an optimist, and I have no choice but to continue. I will not let my illness stand in the way of being human and successful. I want as normal a life as possible.

I have lost friends and family to my illness. Some relationships are beyond repair, some will eventually return. It isn't easy being me, but it isn't easy being around me, either. I lose all rational thought when I am sick. I know that I will always have this illness; it won't magically disappear. I must simply cope as best as I can and rely on a support system, those who have agreed to prop me up when I need the help.

Funny thing about the human spirit. It holds out hope in the face of insurmountable circumstances. Hope is a constant theme in my art. Hope is what I hold closest to my heart. I will survive, and one day, be happy.

© 2009, Wm. Andrew Turman
Picture: Oil on canvas; "The Angry Buddhist" by Wm. Andrew Turman

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