The scariest parts of bipolar disorder depend on who you ask, I guess, but I can think of quite a few scary things; after all, serious chronic illnesses like bipolar disorder tend to be scary on their very face. From having to deal with bipolar disorder for the rest of your life to possibly losing your life to bipolar disorder, there’s a lot of which to be scared. So here, I want to talk about some of the scary (and the scariest) aspects of bipolar disorder. Let’s face our fears.
A Scary Part of Bipolar — It’s a Life Sentence
I remember when I figured out I had bipolar disorder (it was before the doctors did), and I remember crying and crying and crying, knowing that it was going to be something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I didn’t know much about it then, but what I knew was that if I was going to be in the amount of pain I was in then for the rest of my life, I didn’t think I could do it.
But here’s the thing about life — it’s long. And while bipolar may be a life sentence, not every moment of bipolar is the same. (This is both a good and bad thing.) While bipolar disorder can bring about more pain than one can imagine, it can also bring about stable times (euthymia). Bipolar disorder is episodic in nature. No single episode will last forever. Bipolar disorder is not one thing, and the pain I was in that night is different than how I was feeling a year from then, or five years from then, and so on.
And so, while bipolar is, indeed, a chronic illness life sentence, not all of that sentence will be spent behind bars.
A Scary Part of Bipolar — Out-of-Control Symptoms
Most people seek help for bipolar disorder because their lives and their bipolar symptoms are out-of-control. If everything was workable, people wouldn’t be seeking out medical help. And it’s very understandable to be scared of the out-of-control bipolar symptoms that drove you to help in the first place. A depression that leaves you friendless due to self-imposed isolation or a mania that leaves you jobless due to lack of insight are things that are rightly very scary,
But here’s the thing about scary bipolar symptoms — they tend to be mitigated by treatment. That’s why we seek treatment in the first place. For example, while mania can be a scary state that can contain psychosis (the presence of delusions and/or hallucinations), among other things,
A Scary Part of Bipolar Disorder — The Inability to Work
It is extremely scary to think that bipolar can take away your ability to make a living. In fact, it’s a big fear of mine. It is grounded in reality, however. According to Bipolar UK, just 21 percent of people with a chronic mental health condition are employed. A 2005 article in the American Journal of Managed Care notes most people with bipolar disorder are unemployed while many more are only employed part-time.
The fear here is that bipolar disorder will take away one’s ability to be independent. It’s scary to think of having to be on disability support or count on a spouse to be the sole breadwinner. I, for one, have always been independent. In fact, I used to be a well-paid techie at a very fancy tech company. Now, I can’t even work 40 hours a week. I’ve made my life work so far, but it’s one of my biggest fears to lose my ability to support myself. And let’s face it, people on disability support typically live below the poverty line. The support simply isn’t sufficient. It’s unfair that people have to live that way because of a brain illness that isn’t their fault in any way, but it’s one of the many unfair things that happen to some with bipolar disorder.
That said, many people do make it work.
The Scariest Part of Bipolar Disorder — Death
Not surprisingly, the scariest part of bipolar disorder is the chance of dying. Not only do people with bipolar disorder die sooner than the average person (for a variety of reasons), but, of course, they have an 11 percent rate of death by suicide.
In this video, I talk about how scary death and suicide in bipolar disorder are.
Facing the Scary Part of Bipolar Disorder
But look, this article isn’t really about fear. These fears are something people have — I certainly didn’t give these fears to people. This article is about facing your fears. No matter which part of bipolar disorder you’re scared of, there are only two things you can do:
- Do what you can to mitigate the situation.
- Accept your fear.
Because no matter what you’re afraid of, it’s not going away. As long as you have bipolar disorder, that fear will linger. But you can take control of the situation by looking into fear’s eyes, doing what you can to control the situation, and move forward.
For example, there’s nothing you can do about bipolar disorder being a lifelong illness, but you can take control over your wellness to be as healthy as possible with it. That’s what you can do. Take your medication. Go to therapy. Do all the hard work. Taking that control over your life and wellness will make the lifelong nature of bipolar disorder more palatable.
So, what about bipolar disorder scares you? How do you handle those fears?
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