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I never thought that I would say that Bipolar Disorder (BP) has made me a better person. After all, I tend to associate most things about BP with the worse things in my experience. Bipolar Disorder is like a wrecking ball, wildly swinging at portions of your life. 

But lately, I’ve really been into reframing and turning negatives into positives.  And I thought, “What would be a difficult negative to turn around?”  Bipolar Disorder is pretty hard to find positives for, but I came up with 12:

  1. I am more empathetic. I don’t just feel for others with BP, but for anyone struggling against an unseen enemy whether that be chronic pain or illness.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pretty me-focused.  The illness sort of demands that of you.  But I’m much more likely to cut someone a whole lot of slack.
  2. I am a creative problem solver. Often, what works against BP during one episode doesn’t work during the next. I have to be creative and shift a couple of paradigms to decrease my symptoms.  I like to keep a list of distractions close by and several little household projects.
  3. I have developed a strong positive mental attitude. Its a lot harder to knock me over than it used to be. One book that really helped me is “You are a Badass. How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero The author appeals to that side of you that knows you can kick some ass.  You just need the proper tools.
  4. I have to get out of my comfort zone to defeat BP.  When I’m sitting (or pacing) at home, feeling blue or my head is racing with ideas, I know it will do me good to get out of the house and do something.  I’ve proven this to myself time and time again, yet it is still difficult to break free of the comfort zone.  And it’s all a big illusion anyway.  My comfort zone (usually) ends up encompassing wherever I go so that the scariest thing I have to do is pick up the car keys and go. 
  5. I have honed my persistence. I am patient and I can wait out an episode because I know better times are coming.  When you don’t feel good, it’s only natural to wonder when the bad feeling will end. I have found that if I push against getting mired in the mood, the bad feelings are often less the next day.  This is a long-term journey.
  6. I am grateful for every good thing that happens. And I am full of gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life.  Although I have done a lot of work to get to where I am mentally, there have been so many people that have helped me get there.  I am fortunate enough to have insurance and Medicare.  Because one thing I don’t need to tell you, it is expensive to be mentally ill.
  7. I am able to help other people fight their mental illnesses, including my family.  We serve as sounding boards and support.
  8. I am resilient. No matter how many times I get knocked down, I always get back up.  And every time I get back up, I’m stronger than before which makes it more difficult for BP or anxiety to get a foothold.  I also don’t hold it against myself if I get knocked down.  I’m fighting BPII, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Diabetes II.  I am a warrior and so are you.
  9. I have been able to toughen up without losing my altruism.  In other words, I still have a soft side (ridiculously soft) even though I am tough with my symptoms.
  10. I am much more appreciative of the good times. When I’m out having fun, I take it ALL in…the sounds, the sights, the smells.  I store it in a box in my head labeled “Good Memories”.  When times are hard, I just open my Good Memories box and remember that day.  For example, I used to think Spring was ok…it meant Summer was coming. Now, I see it as a rainbow of beautiful colors and flowers and trees budding. When you’ve been through a lot of pain, you appreciate feeling good.  
  11. Through practice, I have developed my coping skills. I know how to replace a bad thought with a good one and how to compartmentalize and how to worry less. I have affirmations covering the inside of some of my kitchen cabinets.  I have written letters to my younger self.  There are so many techniques you can use.  Get yourself a book on Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy.
  12. I am better at reaching out to friends when I need help. Being honest with my friends about my mental problems is very difficult.  Part of me still waits for someone to tell me to “Buck up”.  (And, unfortunately, I’ve had those kinds of “friends”.  But I have zero tolerance for that bullshit attitude now.)  My friends try to make it easier for me to talk about my illnesses by asking lots of questions and asking what they can do to help.

There you have it, 12 ways having BP has made me a better person.  If we can turn our weaknesses into strengths, watch out world.

What traits have you developed as a result of having a mental or physical illness?

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