Finding The Sweet Spot: Why Bipolar Disorder Became A Blessing... Not a Curse, Part I

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Artur Rutkowski

Oh, what a controversial discussion we must embark. How can anyone say an illness that has taken lives due to suicide a “blessing”? To many, that statement marginalizes the harsh realities associated with having bipolar. It causes so much upheaval that I decided to turn this article into three parts because it would be insensitive to say this disorder can be a blessing without being completely transparent about the horrors millions suffer. We must also reveal why so many say its a curse. Let’s consider the following scenarios:

“My son took his life his second year after being admitted to a top university.”

“My sister with a PHD in microbiology lives homeless and hasn’t seen the family in years.”

“My son’s incarcerated due to not being on his meds and displaying aggressive behavior.”

“My daughter lives in constant depression and I have to raise my own grandkids.”

“I can’t be creative because of my medication and experiencing emotional flatness.”

“I can’t maintain stable employment.”

“I have a mountain of medical debt.”

“I have no medical insurance and can’t afford treatment or counseling.”

“I live at home with my parents and I’m 35.”

“I live in a government out patient facility and I’m 45.”

“They took my kids from me because I self medicate with alcohol and drugs.”

“I’m an embarrassment to my family because I’m too “eccentric”.

“My girlish figure is gone due to massive weight gain from medication side effects.”

“I simply can’t handle the roller coaster of emotions anymore. As soon as I’m feeling good I’m dreading the intense depression around the corner. I’m afraid to be happy. I’m so afraid..”

As one can see, bipolar is a vicious upward battle. Recently, HuffPost Rise released a video called, “Gifted with Bipolar,” that talked about my poetry and how it’s fueled by my experience with mania and depression. In my case, the illness ended up becoming more of a blessing. However, the above scenarios I mentioned are not exaggerated. In fact, all of them are true stories; hence, we have the “bipolar is a curse” narrative.

Now, because I’ve had a severe form of this condition my entire young adult and adult life, I feel I’m in a position and have a duty to give an honest, contrary perspective that shares what allowed me to turn that critical corner and discover what I love to call, my wellness “sweet spot”. Hopefully, many out there, whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not, will be inspired to discover their wellness sweet spot, too.

Some people feel we’re all individually a culmination of past events and experiences in our lives. I believe that’s yes and no because each of us are unique in how we internalize life situations. Two people can go through severe child abuse in the same household and one can understandably come out addicted to substances and the other can understandably become a high-powered CEO. The CEO pushes him/herself to achieve new heights where the other sibling may be inclined to the former and handle their pain through dangerous escapism.

In my opinion, a person’s worth has nothing to do with their job title or current health predicament. But one’s quality of life is extremely important otherwise, why be here in the first place? I’ve seen individuals with fatal illnesses have a better quality of life than multimillionaires with top notch healthcare.

Same rule applies for bipolar disorder. For the individual who has dreams, a passion for life and desperately wants to get better but is drowning in the abyss, what do they do? This person was me, so I did what came natural and had to make a conscious choice. I went mad - for wellness.

What harm is there in going mad with wanting to feel better? What’s wrong with going mad for happiness? My other options were to simply go mad, not be able to take care of myself, hold a job, stay over-medicated or just end it all.

I took that obsessive intensity and poured it into finding a way out of the abyss. Did I have motivation? Not necessarily, when you’re in deep depression that word feels unachievable. However, I had a burning desire to not feel powerless. I had the energy to dream and recollect the life I led pre-diagnosis. I had the energy to be on my hands and knees in doctors offices begging them to give me meds that would work (put your flags down, we’ll talk about meds later). I had the energy to surrender and say, “God help me," and searched for success stories to emulate. I desperately needed a guide and tangible hope.

“Success” meant being able to enjoy my day and handle the challenges that life brings all of us without having an emotional, psychotic break. It meant my ability to be creative, write, feel connected and in harmony with this universe, be of service to others and have a stable career. Success also meant having others support my journey. Unfortunately, nobody with my symptoms was talking and if they were, they were sharing the maximum amount government disability pays out. Although disability is extremely helpful and vital for many in recovery it can also make one feel unfulfilled and aids depression when used longterm.

So, for me to achieve the quality of life I felt I was destined to have, I had to make peace and get to know somebody I never took the time to pay enough close attention. It forced me to get to know myself away from the illness because it’s those hypersensitive and deep emotional reactions to life triggers that sets off the uncontrollable symptoms; from there the two get stuck in a volatile tango. For those like me with severe symptoms, there is no middle ground. It’s either the depths of hell, which makes suicide more like saving grace, or flying off at the handle in uncontrollable bliss (or rage). Hence, understanding and getting a grip on those hypersensitive emotions takes some hyper-soulsearching and hyper-selfcare; medication or no medication.

This intense introspection was the beginning of an unexplainable beauty I can’t deny and will be challenging to put into words in Part II of this article. Plainly put, I would be an ungrateful fraud if I pretended this journey never happened.