I love reading Natasha Tracy’s articles and I am very fond of her blog, the Bipolar Burble Blog. I found it about a year ago. I appreciate how she well she puts to words much of how I feel and how she addresses treatment options as well. If you haven’t visited her blog, I highly recommend it.
I read this article the other day about a month after my father preached to me about how my baby brother is going to be happier in life than I ever will because he has lower expectations than I do….
My brother’s life is my brother’s life. What he does with it is for him to decide. Yes I have opinions but that’s not the point. The point is that it rubs me the wrong way that my father is willing to sit there and play the comparison game like this while claiming that he isn’t guilty of doing that because his father did it to him and his brother when he was growing up. I could rant forever on this but I need to drop it. This post isn’t about that.
Natasha talked about whether or not we should lower our expectations in life when we have Bipolar. Since my life deals with more than just Bipolar, I will extend that question to all disabilities and disorders. Those of us that have shit going on with our minds and bodies don’t get to fully do all that we want to do exactly the same way that “normal” people do. So should we lower our expectations? My father seems to think so but you know what, I’m in the same camp as Natasha. We shouldn’t. Absolutely not. We should adjust them around our limitations and fight for better, but not lower them. Not ever.
I honestly think I would be dead right now if I had lower expectations. Why fight through the nightmare of finding the right meds if my expectations for a better life wasn’t set high? Why would I have even gone in to get help in the first place? I wouldn’t have gone to college. I wouldn’t be trying to raise good sons. I wouldn’t be trying to homeschool my Bipolar son. I wouldn’t be defending the existing IEP for my middle son. I wouldn’t be trying to fight for an IEP for my youngest son. I wouldn’t be trying to resolve the destructive marriage that I’m in. I wouldn’t be moving us back into my parents’ house while I try to get myself back to a more functional state. And so on.
I have a lot of shit on my plate right now and my expectation is to get it all taken care of. If my expectations were lower, I would just lay down and quit. How is that the definition of happiness and success? It’s not in my book.
Natasha often describes her life as one of anhedonia and pain. She isn’t the only one within the Bipolar community. I never thought of myself as falling into this category and a part of me still doesn’t. However, since I have started this blog I have noticed a theme running through my posts. I don’t really feel happiness either. Sure elation hits once in awhile, but what I feel most of the time – almost all of the time actually – is anger and frustration, if not rage. Any other time, I usually don’t identify an emotion.
In this article I’m featuring in my post here she talked about her time of before being Bipolar. I don’t have that time. Like Little Bear I have had symptoms since early childhood. I’ve been dealing with this shit since forever. Maybe this is why I’m so angry? I know Little Bear is. He’s always shouting that people aren’t listening. I am. I swear I am listening, but I feel like we are speaking different languages here. But I felt the same way as he does now. I was always so overwhelmed and no one ever understood – they would just shut me down instead. I still feel that way.
So maybe my father thinks that at some point I stopped seeking happiness… or that I’m chasing it too hard… or something? I don’t know. Personally I would like to just not be angry. It is kind of impossible to be happy, find happiness, or hang on to happiness, when you’re raging like the Hulk. As the rage machine you’re just smashing the shit of everything all the time. There is nothing happy about that. It’s just a world of regret, isolation, and damage control. Maybe I did lower my expectations in this respect? Who knows. I know I’m just trying to survive in my head. But I do know that I refuse to sink into misery just because somebody else thinks I’m reaching for the stars that I shouldn’t be when all I want is a life raft.
We need to fight for better. We need to tell our care providers what our medications and treatments are doing to us physically, mentally, and emotionally. We can’t accept the answer “you’re treatment resistant” and be left on the same med or treatment plan because that does nothing for us. Insist on something else and see if it sticks. We need to tell our therapists what’s really going on in our lives. What we feel, what we think, and what we need. They are the ones that are getting paid to be there to listen to us – not the other way around. We can get useless advice and platitudes for free elsewhere so why are we letting these people get paid for that shit? Call these people out on it! Make them do their jobs. Tell them what’s not working when it’s not working. Do not lower your expectations here. Never here. You are your best advocate.