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I am an alcoholic as well as diagnosed with bipolar 1 and borderline personality disorder. You could definitely say that at times I’ve been all over the map. I am in remission from all three disorders, but bits and pieces of the mania, emptiness, and cravings still remain. In order to be free of pain, I’ve found that I have to follow my doctor’s instructions to the letter, go to Alcoholics Anonymous at least four times per week, and attend classes and workshops to educate myself further. I had a hard life because of my diagnoses, but like I said, I’m pretty much in remission now and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. That being said, I still miss being “normal”, although I never have been. I’ve compiled a list of five reasons why.
1. Emotional Regulation
Even though I take Abilify, Lithium, Neurontin, and Ativan, I’m still an emotional mess sometimes. I know everyone has their days, but mine can be hilariously dramatic, replete with crying buckets and accusing my loved ones of being against me. On these days I feel like my heart aches for something I don’t even know about and watching the homeless woman push her cart down the street does something to my sympathies I can’t possibly begin to understand.
I don’t want my life to go down the tubes as it has so many times with alcohol. I want to drink like normal people! I want to go into a shiny, yet dark, bar and flit around the room in my evening dress or whatever, smoking out of a cigarette holder and saying, “Dahhling”. Of course, that was The Great Gatsby and never my life, but I still want to do that. I just want to feel the alcohol run down my throat, burning as it goes, one more time. I want to get the euphoric feeling and make out with some Joe and rip my stockings.
Okay, so I’m only medium-old (40), but it’s only been a few years that I’ve been medicated and in Alcoholics Anonymous. When these things happened, my life got increasingly better, and I’m doing pretty well these days. However, I miss my youth. I was so sick and uncomfortable in my skin throughout my teens, twenties, and thirties, that I was either drunk or miserable all that time. I couldn’t hold many jobs, so by the time I had gone into remission, it felt like it was too late to start a career. I know that it’s not, but sometimes I feel that way (emotional regulation?). I just look back and mourn all the lost opportunities I could have had.
Not Being Stigmatized
This is the reason I write in Suicidal Thoughts. It is so hard for people to recover from mental illness without being made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with him/her. Even though I am a productive member of society now, I still don’t feel comfortable telling people about my disorders. It just seems that when people get cancer, the whole family gathers around and friends are sympathetic. Not so with the mentally ill. We almost have to keep it a secret. We find one another and are so relieved that we can speak freely. There is something terribly, terribly wrong with this. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve wished for cancer hundreds of times. Then maybe I’d get a parade.
In my particular case, I act out sexually because my mania gets out of hand occasionally. I have a wonderful husband who has done everything for me, but I still find myself flirting with other men, and even sexting with them. I always get found out and I am always so red-faced about it. I can’t believe my husband is still with me after all that, but he is learning to understand bipolar disorder, so he sees my behavior as my sickness and not cheating. When these things happen I feel like a stranger to myself. I mourn the fact that even though I’m on medication and going to therapy, sometimes I slip.
This is by no means a complete list of the things I miss because I am mentally ill. I find reasons to feel sorry for myself every day, but it doesn’t last long, because I realize how lucky I am to even be alive. Mental illness is no joke. I’m including alcoholism in there, because it is a mental and spiritual malady. Those of us who have made it this far deserve a parade in my opinion. Until then, we can all continue to speak our minds about how we feel and maybe shrink some of that stigma down to a manageable size.