“Being” or “Having” Bipolar


There is much wisdom in saying that we Have a Mental Illness when we speak of our Bipolar Disorder. People say it gives us more Control. But there’s one aspect that is often forgotten. This illness by it’s very nature is cyclical, and our minds don’t always stay where we put them.

What I mean is that it’s fine and dandy to say you Have a mental illness and you Control it when you’re stable and doing OK and you can actually mean it. But when you go either too high or too low then you are Not in Control of your illness, By Definition!, and it’s silly to pretend you are, just because you use certain words to describe it.

I feel too much cognitive dissonance to think that I simply have an illness in the bad times. I’m Bipolar personified then. My emotions change and take me over and all I can see is where I’m at at the time. I can’t see out of my dilemma, even tho I Know differently.

It’s important to acknowledge where you’re at in life. If you’re in the pit or flying too high then you are Not in control of your illness. Why else take all those pills and go to therapy and do all the mind tricks we do to take care of  ourselves to be OK? If we weren’t messed up by the illness we wouldn’t need to do all that would we?  Of course not. We’d be fine like the rest of humanity… (some sarcasm here…)

Personally I use the terms interchangeably. I find them both empowering. I found it empowering the first time I was diagnosed 18 years ago at age 45 and I have ever since. I’ve had Bipolar my whole life and I’m considered a model of recovery by my Psychiatrist and counselor both. I do well mostly, and have a lot of insight into my illness. But I still lack that control much of the time.

Now and then I have some control, but I am Not in Control when push comes to shove. Then the bipolar takes over and I’m lost. That’s when I feel like I Am bipolar, deep in my bones. And you know what? I don’t mind calling myself Bipolar when I feel like that. It seems to fit me better than just saying I Have it. It’s more visceral.

I don’t mean this to be a downer for anyone. In fact I mean it to be empowering. I believe that You control your life in the long run. But being in control of your own life means accepting all the parts of it, even the Bipolar disorder that takes away that control.

In the end what matters most is how you relate to your illness and your strength to endure it. And I do mean endure because it’s hard as hell. Making peace with all parts of ourselves is crucial to this struggle. Accepting the dark parts of ourselves is a part of the Dance of Life, especially for those of us with Bipolar, and it’ll always be this way.

So think whatever you want. Call it by any name you choose. Relate to it however it gets you thru the night. It’s all good, but don’t think you have it under Control. Don’t make that mistake when you say you “just Have” this illness. It’s all too easy to think you have it all under control if you say you just have it. Be careful not to let it mean more than it can.

Words have power and the words you use will define things for you it’s true. But saying you Are Bipolar doesn’t hurt you. It means you know yourself. You know who you are in your worst moods. You know yourself deeply and fully and you accept responsibility for that knowing by claiming your identity. It’s OK to do this. It’s even wise I think.

And it’s also fine to think that you Have this illness. I don’t mean to imply differently. But I’ve written all of this just to point out that it’s not any one way all the time. It Changes! It’s cyclical and when it changes and you lose control, you have to accept where you’re at with whatever grace you can.

If that means saying you Have bipolar that’s cool. If it means you say you Are bipolar that’s cool too. Yes words have power, but only the power we give to them. We don’t have to lose what power we do have by always being “psychiatrically correct” in the words we use to describe our illness. We have free will in the definitions we use to talk about our lives, even if not completely in what our lives may have become.

Wishing you stability in the coming year,



13 comments on ““Being” or “Having” Bipolar

  1. Hi Steve. I made it over here. I don’t have, nor am I, Bipolar Disorder. I think you worded this well and could apply to many different mental illnesses, not only bipolar disorder. Sounds like you manage your condition well and with grace. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. No different than having a disorder of any other body part. There’s just such a stigma attached to disorders of our brains. I wish you the best on your journey and I will go right up there to the top of the page and “click” on Follow. I look forward to reading more of your posts, another day, as I’m not feeling so great today, but I will be back. You do a nice job of inspiring, yourself. Keep up the great work.
    Peace out,


    • Thank you so much for your comments, Tammy. You really got it right about the stigma attached to mental illness. But I don’t let that stop me. I believe that it’s necessary for all of us to Come Out about our illnesses and our strengths, as you do so well. I’m honored that you will follow my blog and I look forward to future visits from you. I hope you get some good rest now… 😉


  2. You’re quite welcome. I don’t let it stop me, either. It is what it is and I know I am not alone. I think it’s good to educate others and maybe when they see all of us talking about it, they won’t feel so ashamed or embarrassed, as so many do.
    Thank you for that kind comment. I’ll be back around soon. I’m going to slow down a little on the blogging just for a very short time due to my unbearable pain and nausea. I’m hoping to finally have surgery next week or the week after, the sooner the better. I’m just patiently waiting for the phone call back with the time and date. I sure hope it gets me the relief I so much crave. I’ll be back in full force before you know it. I’ll still be around, just not as much for just a short bit. I hope you are doing well, my dear friend,
    Wild Thang:)
    That’s the name I’ve been given here at wordpress by a very dear friend and pretty much everyone calls me that, but you can call me Tammy if you want. It’s all just in good fun.:)


    • Hey Wild Thang, (great name!) Thanks for the good wishes… It’s good to get to know you! You have such amazing patience, and that’s such a challenge for folks like us isn’t it? But then again I think we’re masters at it and could teach others a few things about accepting our situations and “alternate” realities while still fighting to maintain a good quality of life. I really hope you get your surgery soon and that it’s helpful to you. That’d be wonderful! I’ve been told that there’s nothing they can do for me with surgery for my back and of course bipolar is supposedly incurable but it’s still possible to live a good life and have some fun. I love the way you still party and enjoy your life even with your serious struggles. I understand your taking some time off. It’s been a busy time for all of us lately and a hard one too. I wish you the best and hope you’re feeling much better very soon!
      peace out! 😉


      • Hi there Steve, glad you like the name, I like it, too. I’m also glad you think I have such patience. LOL some days I do and some days, not so much.
        It really sucks when in such agonizing pain and we’re told sorry nothing more we can do to help you or make you at least a little more comfortable. Damn it, anyway. I won’t be getting any surgery because no one will do it for me, so I’m just going to have to live with it. I’m still trying to kick this damn flu and bronchitis. I’ve had it for the past 2 weeks, at least, and I’m about sick of it, on top of everything else. It has to get better soon. I went to the doctor last week and she loaded me up with antibiotics, prednisone, cough medication, breathing treatments and a new nausea medication. I’ve just been sleeping a lot trying to get over this shit.
        I hope you are feeling as well as possible. I hope to be back in a few days, at least back on a daily basis. If I can get caught up on all these notifications, I’ll be looking forward to checking out your blog, again. Have a nice evening, my friend.
        Peace out,
        Wild Thang:)


        • Hi Wild Thang,

          Yep you’re really patient I think. You deal with such horrible pain and disability yet you keep on going. You’re an inspiration to others as your blog shows. You have a lot of people who care for you and that’s really cool. I know what it’s like to have Them tell you they can’t do anything to help you. It really does suck bad. I”m stuck on a huge dose of Morphine every day because of my own intractable pain. It gets me thru the day but I hate being dependent on it. Thanks for your good wishes to me. That’s the kind of spirit you have. Even tho you’re in pain you still have the energy to say good things to others. That’s a great skill you’ve learned, as have other of us who live with chronic illness, and I applaud you for it. Keep up the good work and don’t worry at rushing back to blogging too soon before you’re ready. It’ll happen when it’s time ;).


          • It makes me very happy to have others tell me that I’m accomplishing one of my goals, of inspiring others. I want more than anything to help others in any way I can, that’s pretty much with words, as I have no special powers or curing abilities or I would be using those special powers and we would all be well. LOL
            I’m allergic to Morphine, Damn it, but I have Oxycodone, which isn’t as good, but I hate to even have to take it at all. I’ve been on much more powerful narcotics and opiates, of which almost killed me being taken just as prescribed. I took myself off of those after a doctor at a pain clinic overdosed me on the Butrans patch. His words, not mine, but it almost killed me. I spent 10 days in the hospital and 3 of those nights in ICU because my BP dropped to 64/24. Long story and it’s done and over with.
            Yes, it truly sucks when they tell us they can’t do anything for us because I think it’s bullshit, myself. In my case, they could do the surgery to at least remove the adhesions, that would help with one problem, but they won’t do it until they cause a bowel obstruction. They have to wait until it’s going to kill me. Isn’t that nice?
            I’m sorry to hear of you being in so much pain and also being told there’s nothing they can do for you. I’m sorry you have to me dependent on Morphine, as I am on Oxycodone. I hate being treated like a drug seeker because of it, when I don’t even want to take it, ya know what I mean? I sure hope you can some day soon, some way, some how, find some relief. Find a good doctor that can assist you with that. I will keep you in my prayers. Just remember you matter to me and you have, indeed, inspired me, as well. You keep up the good work and we’ll just continue to walk this journey together. I’m glad to be getting to know you, as you’re becoming one of my greatest friends here on wordpress. Have an awesome day, my dear friend. Hope to hear from you soon and I hope you feel “better” soon.
            Peace out,
            Wild Thang:)


            • Just reading about your life is inspiring to me Tammy. You’ve been thru so much and yet you still keep on plugging along and helping others with your story. It’s a great thing to see and be a part of with you. I do have a good MD who understands my pain condition and helps me with the morphine, tho I’d prefer not to take it too. But it helps me stay upright and that’s a big deal. I hate it that they can’t find what is wrong with me. I’m sure it’s even more so for you when you know what it might be but they won’t operate for you. I hope that changes soon. But if not I’m sure you’ll continue to hang in there and be a part of so many peoples worlds with your blog and your spirit. Keep up the good work and I’ll be around soon to visit you too,.
              peace to you dear,


            • Hi Steve. I’m glad to be inspiring you, as you do me. Plugging along, I’m still doing, today anyway. You know it changes from day to day. I may be very positive today and ready to quit tomorrow. Never know what you’re going to get.
              I’m glad that you have a good doctor, as do I, that understands your pain condition and is willing to actually help you. My primary care doctor does the same. She is awesome. I’m so very sorry that they cannot find out what is causing the pain, I know that is very, very frustrating, isn’t it? Even if they operated on me, that would only take care of one problem, temporarily. I have several invisible chronic illnesses and pain. What they can’t figure out is which autoimmune disease is causing all the current diseases. Very, very frustrating. I’ve been to so many doctors, as I’m sure you have been, too. I’m on a break right now from looking for that one doctor that is going to figure everything out. I’m tired of the disappointment. Maybe after awhile, I’ll get back to it and maybe I’ll just try to learn how to live life like this, not knowing.
              I hope you’re having a “better” day today. Take care, my friend and I look forward to talking with you again, soon.
              Peace out,
              Wild Thang aka Tammy


  3. Being psychiatrically correct is just labels, and labels alienate. To call a thing by whatever name it has right now – and that changes, doesn’t it! – is empowering, like surfing in the sea. We have to keep widening ourselves.


    • Surfing is an apt metaphor for living with Bipolar. It always changes and that’s so important to remember. Widening our visions of ourselves is indeed so necessary. We can be limitless if we allow it and don’t stick ourselves with unnecessary labels! But then again some labels can be empowering if you use them as that. It’s all about intent, as is so much of life. Thank you for visiting me.


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