On Not Being Defective

For so long in my marriage, I have felt like the “defective” half of the relationship because of my bipolar disorder. My husband has never made me feel that way. I have made me feel that way. I have felt defective in many parts of my life because of the bipolar, and I have recognized that and am working to realize that I am not. I have bipolar disorder and it is an illness. It does not make me less of a person.

Throughout my life—since my diagnosis at 21—I have gone through different, long cycles of trying to accept my illness. For a year or so, I will accept it. I will have moved from denial through the various stages of the Kubler-Ross ladder of actualization. And then I will fall again. I usually “fall” back to not accepting my bipolar because of a particularly bad series of episodes that break me down into a person that begins to hate myself because I learn to hate the bipolar again. And then, as I get well, and am stable for a length of time, I move up through the stages of acceptance again.

I am working to “accept the bipolar” again. For the last year or two, I have not been in denial, but I believe I have been a little bit angry at the bipolar. I have felt that is “not fair,” I have directed the anger towards myself, I have been continually frustrated that I am so easily triggered. Much of this is because I have gone through so many medication changes, primarily withdrawal as I progressively removed each medication from my life. And I have made great progress in removing these medications. I have come off of lithium, Depakote, Latuda, Zyprexa, lorazepam and more. I still take a few bipolar medications (including one other benzodiazepine, unfortunately) but I am almost off of my Abilify as well. I was on maybe eight different psychiatric medications and now I am down to three. But I have definitely suffered through it.

My therapist says that my default program is to feel defective because I am bipolar. I am working hard to change that. I am not defective. I am as lucky to have my husband as he is to have me. My stepchildren are as fortunate to have me as I am to have them. I am full of love. I am talented. I have a mission (to write about mental illness) and I am succeeding at it, albeit slowly. As my husband says, the bipolar has helped to make me the wonderful person I am today: sensitive, empathic, caring, creative, compassionate.

I want to make a very clear statement: We are not defective. We are not less than other people, even though other people may not understand. We are whole. And even though we must go extensive periods of great pain, we get through it. It may make us feel guilty or ashamed, but there is no reason to be. We are never less-than-equal, and, again, we are never defective.

Kubler-Ross model

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
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