So something I really hate about being bipolar is the “identity crisis”—what is my bipolar and what is me?
I’m in the process of changing my medicine right now so this question is at the forefront of my mind. Am I hyper right now because I’m excited that the weather has been nice and the holidays are coming up? Or is the extra activity a sign of a manic swing? Am I feeling down because I don’t like my job right now or is it a sign of my depression? What’s the “normal” level of stress related to adjusting to my first full-time job? Are the headaches and lack of sleep normal/expected? Or should we try a different medication to help?
What about personality traits I think I have? I’ve always been the talkative and social one in my family, right?? Or is that just my outlet for extra emotions and mania? My husband loves that I’m spontaneous. I think I am. But am I only spontaneous when I’m feeling impulsive and full of energy during a manic episode?
It also colors my view of my moods. Like writing this today I’m in kinda a bitchy mood—but everyone gets to have those right? Or wait—is mine due to the medication changes and that I forgot to take one of them for the past few days? While I think I will always have more mood swings than my stable husband, how many and how intense can mine be before they are attributed to struggling with bipolar?
All this confusion results in a major fear: Am I medicating away my personality and emotions?
What is related to MY ILLNESS?
What qualities ARE ME?
WHO AM I REALLY?
One of the best answers I’ve found to that question is at the end of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Dr. Daniel Amen. “We are who we are when our brain works right….when our brain works right, we are more able to be who we really want to be” (pg 298).
Does that answer all the above questions or ease all my fears of changing myself? No—but it does give me a lens through which to view the questions. This is just a starting point; the rest I will have to work out in therapy, journaling, through advice and insight of family and friends, and my favorite—plain old trial and error.
I want to conclude with an ironic question–is even the identity crisis related to my illness? Bipolar is known to cause confusion about your view of yourself. Or is an identity crisis something every 24 year old goes through, and bipolar is just a unique facet in my considerations?