Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bipolar Courage

I believe it takes a tremendous amount of courage to survive bipolarity. What other condition causes people to feel better than great one day, and so low the next that it takes every bit of self-discipline to continue living?

As I write this--I am thinking about Tony C., who is courageously adjusting to lithium; Gianna, who is courageously trying to withdraw from the medication that's making her so desperately ill; JayPeeFreely who courageously does a job each day that is far beneath his intellectual capabilities, but spends hours working on his writing projects; Danielle, who is courageously dealing with parental abandonment, and my mother who courageously wanted to live despite the humiliation of dementia and an assortment of physical ailments--and I'm sure there are so many more among us, who are dealing with a multiplicity of issues.

What is courage? To me, it's facing adversity with a sense of humor. It's getting up each morning, and vowing to make each and every day meaningful despite how I feel. In the past, it was sometimes feeling so low that I wondered how I could possibly survive, and yet hiding that feeling beneath a smile so that my son wouldn't sense my despair.

I particularly like the definition of courage that I found in Rollo May's book, The Courage to Create. He writes, "This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus and Sartre have proclaimed that courage is not the absence of despair; rather the capacity to move ahead despite despair."

So, when you feel bad that people are marginalizing you because of your illness, or you feel sad because you are depressed, or embarrassed because of your manic behavior, or exhausted by the ravaging side effects of your medication, think about how courageous you are because you have demonstrated the "capacity to move ahead despite despair."

12 comments:

bart said...

thanks for the encouraging post and although i'm not diagnosed as being bipolar, i am swimming through that large collection of terms and disorders which seem to overlap and blend into each other at an alarming rate...

as they say, "life is a bitch and then you die" but i'm not planning on dying anytime soon yet nor letting life beat the crap out of me for something i've got nothing to do with initially...

keep well...

Tony C. said...

Hi Susan,
I never really thought of myself as courageous, its just been a case of getting on with it or giving in to it, but thank you for your thoughts.
I feel to some extent that being bipolar has made me a better, more caring, more aware person. I'm not saying I have miraculously turned into the good samaritan, but it has turned me on to other peoples misfortunes and made me far less selfish.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bart,
Sorry to hear that you're having a difficult time getting a diagnosis, but with your attitude, you're sure to overcome whatever "label" they throw your way!

All my best!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tony,
I agree that it's a case of "going on or giving in," and those of us who "go on" need a tremendous amount of resilience, personal strength, and resolve to do so. To me, that's courage!

I also agree that having experienced our share of adversity--which often seems like more than we can handle--makes us more sensitive to other's misfortunes!

Susan

Paula Joy said...

It does take courage to press on and continuing living a fulfilled life, even though we know that the future is uncertain. Heck, tomorrow's moods are uncertain!! It's easy to give up, and the feeling of giving up sometimes comes too quickly. When I'm depressed my reality is distorted. It's like I reach for the truth but can't grasp it. Those are the days I want to give up. But, "it's always darkest before the dawn." That gives me a lot of motivation to keep moving forward.

Good post, Susan, and may we all continue to live with the courage that is inside ALL of us and press on, even when it's easier to give up.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Paula,
I know you have two children, and I must tell you that in the darkest hours, one of my saving graces was my son. Even when I felt that I could barely survive, I never would have abandoned him!

Susan

Duane Sherry said...

Susan,

I remember the coverage of 9-11 for the week following the event....

The sadness....it felt as though my own heart had broken into pieces....as I saw those who had endured such suffering....

I remember the stories of the fire fighters, and their courage....

The fascinating thing about them - they each denied any courage of their own - pointing always toward a fellow member of their ladder company as the 'courageous one'....

I think that each of them were brave, because they had each other....

This is our strength. This is the way we become brave.

The flame is too large to run through alone - it's bigger than us, and too frightening....

Side-by-side - that's how we come out on the other side....

That's where we gain our courage - from loving each other....

I believe that when we talk about courage (or anything noble), it always involves love.

Because love is the source of all things that are good (and courageous).

Duane

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Duane, thanks for your comment!

Susan

JayPeeFreely said...

Thank you so much for the mention!!!

I don't think I am much for courage. Just haven't much choice but to continue the continual path to some hopeful "Wellville."

Maybe it should be quite unlike this personal thought:

America's Manifest Destiny wasn't to put Walmarts and Starbucks within eyeshot of your humble abode. It was to embrace the spirit of the land with the energy of the hard-at-it American innovator and originator. To harness the vast resources, spread the wealth evenly and enliven the heartful bounty of America from Atlantic to Pacific. Yet, that doesn't seem to be the case now, does it?

Just a thought I had this morning.

Have a good weekend!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
You've had a tough time of it, and yet you persevere. I think that takes courage.

Susan

Robin J Foote said...

Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
--William James, a Bipolar himself.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Robin,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comment.

Susan