Being Bipolar is difficult because I can't always control my emotions. If I am depressed I can't "Snap out of it" if I am manic I can't "Tone it down". Before my diagnosis I thought something was wrong with me when my emotions would go up and down on a dime. I just thought I was immature or undisciplined or ungrateful. It's like being on a rollercoaster that I can't get off of. It's very frustrating because people don't understand why I can't control my emotions. They think I am being difficult on purpose. Medication helps but it doesn't eliminate the symptoms of my illness. I can still get depressed or hypomanic while on my medication. Medication keeps me out of the hospital but it doesn't erase the illness.
Over the years I have been forced to become much more patient and forgiving of myself. I have realized that I have an illness and cannot do certain things at particular times. I had to give up on the notion that if I had positive thoughts I would automatically feel positive. This is impossible to do when I am clinically depressed. My brain is acting on its faulty chemistry and I cannot fully control that. When I am hypomanic I can do certain things to try to limit my symptoms but I can't turn it off. I have to ride out the waves of my illness and hope not too much damage is done.
Being the the church I was didn't help my illness. The church preached that a good Christian is joyful all the time and in full control of her emotions. Some people like my sister were told to go off their meds because God was in control of their emotions. I knew better than to go off my meds after watching my sister end up in the hospital when she did. As a result of the gospel I was being fed daily I felt guilty all of the time. I felt like a defective human being because I couldn't get happy when I was depressed. I felt evil and undisciplined. I was told I was being ungrateful if I was depressed after what God did for me. I was burdened with feelings of deep guilt and self-hatred. When I was manic I was the perfect Christian and made leadership happy. I was intense and joyful and "fired-up". Just what leadership wanted. But when I was depressed I was lazy and ungrateful. I was depresssed most of the time before my medication.
I can't control my brain. There's no way I can just change my emotional state if I am in the throws of the symptoms of my illness. I couldn't explain this to people in my church. They thought that if I just changed the way I thought that the emotions would follow. I tried really hard to do this to no avail. I couldn't change my emotions no matter how hard I tried. I ended up feeling like a spiritual failure and an evil person. I felt anxious about my salvation and was sure that I was going to hell. I felt powerless to change my spiritual situation. I felt like God hated me and didn't want me to be happy.
When I got on medication I felt better. I felt normal and could function and hold down a job. I got married and had a normal life for years. I still felt guilty during the times I got depressed. It was hard on my marriage because my husband felt like I was angry at him. I tried to get it through to him that my depression wasn't caused by anything he did. It was my illness. He understands that now but it took a while to comprehend. Christians at my church could not understand. I tried to explain why I couldn't control my depressions and why I had to take medications but it just didn't compute.
I began to question the existence of a God who gave me an illness that prevented me from doing His will. It made not sense to me. I understood grace but I was told not to take God's grace for granted. I should be a perfect disciple without grace. I felt frustrated. I couldn't be a good Christian without God's grace. If I couldn't take advantage of that then how was I supposed to be a good Christian without it? My faith weakened and eventually disapeared over time. The burden of guilt was just too great. I couldn't be a Christian anymore. I couln't keep reaching for an impossible standard. I couldn't believe in a God who made me disabled and yet expected me to be perfect. I just couldn't wrap my mind around that concept. I gave up my faith to save my sanity.
Oprah talks alot about being happy. She says you should try to bring yourself happiness as much as possible. You should be living your best life. This is bullshit. If I had a gazillion dollars like Oprah maybe I could live my best life and be happy all the time. I have an illness and a disability. It's impossible for me to be happy all of the time. I don't strive for that anymore. I just try to survive and be there for my friends and family. That's all I can do.