Twenty Years Later
Looking Back 
Looking Ahead
Twenty Years Later ~ Looking Back, Looking Ahead

It was Brian Kiley who wrote:

" I went to a bookstore today,
I asked the woman behind the counter
Where the self-help section was
She said, "If I told you,
That would defeat the whole purpose"

My experience with Bipolar Affective Disorder has been much like that for the past twenty years, as I have struggled to learn and understand the illness.  The lady in the book store represents the many brick walls I have run up against in my search, not only for knowledge but for understanding, empathy and compassion.

My doctor gave me a bare bones description of the disorder, and a vague prognosis all those years ago.  He did say that I was lucky that it was 1980~that even twenty years earlier, before the advent of effective medications I would have been institutionalized, probably for the rest of my adult life.  He did not, could not, answer my questions about what the future would bring.  Fortunately for me there was no crystal ball to predict the events that would follow.  If there had been I would have given up in defeat, never attempting to fight the fight or win the battle.

Reading was a consummate passion from the time I was able to put "Dick, Jane and Spot" together at the age of four.  I looked to books for everything and well remember the visits to the local library every Saturday morning to choose five (the limit) books to read during the following week.  By Wednesday or Thursday I normally had nothing left to read and was climbing the walls in anticipation.  Quite naturally I turned to books for more education about Bipolar Illness.  From medical encyclopedias, personal accounts, scientific journals, PDR's, and anything I could find I gradually learned more about it.  Remember though, it was 1980.  Bipolar Disorder was still a shameful and hidden Mental Illness…it had not had its "coming out" and literature was scanty.

Today, books are readily available from the easiest to read to the most scientific reports.  With the advent of the Internet, up to date information has become accessible almost instantly.  The internet offers not only information about the disorder, but support in the way of bulletin boards, chat rooms and even on-line psychiatrists!  Oh, how I wish it had been available to me all those years ago!

In 1997 I got my first computer.  Several months later, barely accustomed to the computer itself, I decided I had a message about Bipolar Illness I wanted to share.  I had no knowledge of HTML language at that time (what was that?) but step by step I learned, and am proud of Bipolar World and my contribution to the Bipolar Community online.

Looking back I can see that it was not until I became involved with support groups, both online and at the local group, that I reached my forte.  Meeting and talking with others who shared the same disorder, understanding their pain, feeling the words they were unable to speak, and sharing my experiences with them gave me a sense of acceptance and contentment I had not experienced in a long while.  I must admit that support became and continues to be a selfish thing, as it is me who grows with each experience.

Yes, I have been through hell and back at the mercy of Bipolar Disorder.  Could it have been worse?  My response is an unqualified "YES!"  I have been most fortunate to have the love and support of family throughout.  My dad (poor dad-who has lived with the effects of Bipolar Disorder for fifty (that's 50!) years between my mom and me) has remained my strength, a staunch and loving support throughout.  My husband of nearly 31 years has stood beside me through thick and thin, and my children, firmly supportive,  treat me like a "normal" mom.  Thank God for these blessings.  I have made friends, mostly bipolar, who have given me hope and the will to go on.  I am fortunate indeed.

I have no idea what the future holds in store for me.  I no longer worry about it, nor do I want to know.  I have reached the point in my life and in the illness where I live each day as it comes, rarely looking back despondently at the past and rarely wasting time trying to predict the future.  What will be will be, and I do not have the power of control.

I do my part, taking medications, keeping doctor appointments, cooperating with treatment plans, eating, sleeping and exercising to keep my body well, and reducing harmful stress in my life as much as possible. 

I watch with great interest news of new medications being discovered and new and effective treatment plans being made operational.  I read news of the genetic search for the cause of Bipolar Illness, and pray for the scientists and researchers carrying out the research.  My vision of a cure for the illness at times dances vividly in my mind as I think of all the individuals who might be spared the agony many of us have been through.  It may be too late to be of benefit to me, but generations to come will never have their lives disrupted by Bipolar Illness as mine has been.

I think of my grandson, eleven years old, who has been diagnosed with the disorder and hope that wonderful discoveries and great strides will be made in time to help him live a normal life.  I think of all the other children and adolescents, currently at the mercy of moodswings, being magically cured by an injection like a smallpox vaccination or a simple drug taken once daily.  And my heart soars!  It can happen!

I look forward to the day when Bipolar Disorder is no longer a source of shame and stigma.  The day when people realize we are valid and valuable individuals with an illness…not an illness attached to a body.  The day when, for every source of stigma there is five of support!  The day to rejoice.

In reality though, I know nothing of what the future holds for any of us.  Minds, much greater than mine are unable to predict the effects Y2K might bring, and that is only months away! 

Peace can be achieved by living only for the present.  That has become my motto.

As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:

"Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy-until nightfall
Anyone and do his work, however hard-for one day
Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, purely-until the sun goes down
And that is all life really means.

Some of us were unable to carry our burden.  Read my heart wrenching story in this event  about my friend Jeff, one who tried so hard…and was unable to make it.

  My Friend Jeff                                                   


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