Bipolar Doesn’t Define Me

stock-photo-bipolar-disorder-word-cloud-concept-249222136#inhonorofcarrie  In 1977 I saw the first of the Star Wars movies on the day it opened. Something I would do for most of the Star Wars movies which followed. At the time I lived in Baltimore.  After making some hospital visits one day, went by this old run down theater where the movie had just opened. Believe it or not, I was about the only person there. The multiplex’s and long lines were unknown that day. No one knew what this new science fiction movie was about.  It was so different from other movies. It portrayed an unreal world in a realistic way. The characters seemed so human with their faults and flaws.

So it was with Carrie Fisher. Early in life she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.   She used her fame as Princess Leia as a platform to make bipolar disorder visible, to bring it out of the dark shadows. Mental illness has always had a stigma  Carrie Fisher demonstrate you could live with a mental illness and not just survive with it, but thrive. As she has quipped  “I’ve received more awards for being bipolar than anything else.”

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 53.  The symptoms were all there, waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to be put together. It took ten years for the pieces to fall together.  1996 had been a stressful year.  As a pastor there were the usual duties pulling at you in dozens of directions.  Then there was the year where I held 60 funerals.  For one 9 week period I averaged a funeral every three days. On several occasions I had two funerals a day.  There were times of going from the cemetery back to the hospital where another church member, a friend, was dying.  After this to say I was depressed was a misnomer.  It was then that the demon of depression began to rear it’s head.

There is more to bipolar disorder than depression. It is too often over diagnosed.  But by 2005 my life was falling apart.  I didn’t know what the problem was.  Didn’t even realize their was a problem.  I wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic. Didn’t smoke.  On the surface I was rather successful.  But my desk was a mess, addressing issues became difficult, debt was the norm. My ability to think things through was impaired.  All symptomatic of bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is not a disease, it’s a disorder.  You’re not sick, your brain is broken.  It is often genetic in nature. The brain is often unable to focus and concentrate.  I’ve followed it’s trail through five generation of my father’s family, from parent to child, cousins, Aunts and Uncles, my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather.  The last time I ever met with my Father’s Doctor I asked him point blank, “Should he have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.”  He just looked at me and said, “Of course.”  It was only later that I wanted to hit him for the years my Dad suffered.

It can’t be fixed, but it can be controlled. Unfortunately many people have difficulty with the medications.  I’ve been blessed from the time of my diagnosis to have gotten the right mix of med’s.  It can’t be healed, but the grace of God can get you through it, and move beyond it.

Today I remember Carrie Fisher, and her mother Debbie Reynolds, and Patty Duke and Robbin Williams and all those other silent sufferers from Bipolar Disorder.  #inhonorofcarrie.


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