Every now and then I have a moment or two where I allow myself to feel sorry for me. I go down this pathway where I imagine my life without a mental illness. I think about where I would be in my career and how different my personal relationships would be. I think about all the time I would not have lost due to hospitalizations and the time it took to get well afterward. I even think about where I would be in my socioeconomic position. But most importantly I briefly dream about how life would be if I was just “normal.”
Then…I wake up. I do this every so often when I’m feeling a little depressed. Constantly managing symptoms that come and go and leave me struggling with what is “normal” and what is a part of my illness. I indulge myself in a fantasy world where there would be no such thing as living with a mental illness. Yes I know it’s not a healthy thing to do, but I think it’s just “normal” to wonder what life would be like without this illness, without bipolar disorder.
Then…perspective comes knocking at my door. I tell myself how lucky I am to have had all the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. I remember the days when friends would tell me I knew how to live. I would often tell them I did not want to have any regrets if something were to happen to me. Well, that something did happen. It’s called serious mental illness, a.k.a. bipolar disorder type I. Fortunately, controlled well with medication, however, it’s not cured.
I know my life did not end when I got really sick, but it changed and the change causes me to walk down memory lane sometimes. The difference in how I live is like night and day. I remember the days when I could stay up all night working on a project or having a good time not for a moment thinking about how it was going to affect my moods. Not for a moment worrying about “mania” and what would happened if “mania” persisted for more than one night. I pay attention to these things today like my life depends upon it because it does depend upon it.
Then there is the whole idea of recovery. For the most part I live in recovery. I was able to go back to work and resume some social activities. But I wanted things to be like they were before I ever got sick and they just could not. Why? Because I had greater limitations than ever before and many bridges were damaged when I was sick.
It makes me sad to walk down memory lane. It makes me feel worse to ask that question, “what if” mental illness was never a part of my life. But there is a part of me where my emotional button lies and it needs to get pushed every now and then with the reality of how I feel. For the most part, I try to stay positive and look at things within a balanced perspective. Every now and then I do ask that question why me? And usually I come up with the same answer, why not me?