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."