Thursday, May 19, 2022

Bipolar Disorders: It's like getting a new horse

What does “bipolar acceptance” look like? What does it feel like? Turns out, it’s a lot like getting to know a new horse.What Is Bipolar Acceptance..


What does “bipolar acceptance” look like? What does it feel like? Turns out, it’s a lot like getting to know a new horse.

bipolar diagnosis acceptance

What Is Bipolar Acceptance?

There isn’t any trophy for achieving bipolar acceptance. There isn’t a list of requirements, a deadline, or a competition. But still, many of us see it as an elusive achievement. So, what is it? And how do we get there?

I’m no psychiatrist, but when my cooler head prevails, I know what does NOT define “bipolar acceptance”:

  • Having everything under control.
  • Having all the answers.
  • Not making mistakes anymore.
  • Not experiencing symptoms anymore.
  • Being immune to bipolar episodes.

Do you know how I know these are misrepresentative of “bipolar acceptance”? Because these achievements are impossible. A person with those qualifications does not and cannot exist.

Coming to terms with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder requires thought, time, and metamorphosis. It isn’t the same for everyone. Accepting bipolar can feel like getting a big breath of air while treading water, or it can creep up on you slowly over time.

What Might “Bipolar Acceptance” Look Like?

Acceptance of a bipolar diagnosis can look different than you might expect.

  • Saying no to another round of drinks.
  • Confiding in a loved one.
  • Attending therapy/medication compliance.
  • Understanding past experiences more clearly.
  • Letting go of expectations.
  • Adopting a new lifestyle.
  • Anticipating times of impaired judgment.
  • Planning logistics ahead of time.

Sometimes, Bipolar Acceptance Can Be Painful

How might the mental process of “bipolar acceptance” feel?

It may feel like grief.

We may doubt or deny the diagnosis (“This is not true.”). We may feel angry or desperate about it (“Why me?”). We may experience embarrassment or guilt about the past (“I did WHAT?!”). We may feel helpless and hopeless (“There is no way I can manage this.”).

This is what the beginning of acceptance feels like. It hurts.

The way to confront grief is with time and action; they can’t take away grief, but they can take away some of the sting. In a way, grief never leaves us.

Bipolar & Identity

It’s metaphor time. Let’s say we live in a world where every person gets a horse (wouldn’t that be awesome!?). When we get a new horse, we typically start out by missing the old one because it was comfortable, we had a good relationship with it, and so on.

So, our first thought is, “I don’t want a new horse!”

It may feel like an identity crisis.

We may begin to wonder how bipolar factors into our sense of self (“Have I been wrong about myself all along?”). We may look for commiseration and/or examples to follow (“What can I learn from others?”)

An identity crisis can feel like the end of the world, but it is not—having an identity crisis is part of life. It is something that many people experience, and is not limited to people with bipolar.

It makes sense that a person may feel uprooted and confused when they receive new information about their health. Experiencing an identity crisis is totally valid and should be taken as an opportunity to slow down for self-reflection.

Why Is Bipolar Acceptance Like Getting a New Horse?

Back to the horse scenario: Most people only need to change horses two or three times over the course of their life—one at puberty and the other at seniorhood.

It’s always a bit of a struggle when one changes horses, but you gotta do what you gotta do. You get to know the new horse and begin to build trust and understanding.

With bipolar, we change horses much more frequently—and sometimes without even knowing.

There is a town troublemaker who thinks it’s funny to swap out our horse while we’re not looking. They even put our very own saddle on this new and untamed horse!

So, the second thought is, “Wait … is this my horse, or am I going crazy?”

Bipolar & Self-Control

It may feel like introspection.

We may begin to see evidence that supports our diagnosis (“OK, this is happening.”). We may begin to realize that it isn’t as cut-and-dry as having total control vs. having zero control (“There may be something I can do to help myself.”).

Looking inward is productive. Being realistic is key. Acknowledge facts: everyone’s brain chemistry affects everything they do. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Seek a scientific understanding of your particular version of this brain-based disorder. Recognize how your atypical brain chemistry affects your behavior by noting specific behaviors that have caused you trouble in the past. Look at this data through a plain and clinical lens.

Establish yourself as co-manager of the disorder. It’s a job from which you can’t retire. Fortify your systems and support team.

Wild Horses

Back to the horse scenario: Let’s say you realize that the horse you’re on is behaving differently than usual. It’s making moves you’ve not seen before. Or maybe it’s not moving at all.

The third thought is: “I need to learn how to manage this horse’s behavior.”

It may feel like zen.

We may begin to put together the pieces of the puzzle (“I’m in a difficult situation, but there are things I can do to improve it.”) We may begin to acknowledge and embrace our own capabilities (“Now that I know I have bipolar disorder, I plan to do my best to manage my mental health.”)

Lean into the science and trust that it gets better. It takes lots of small tweaks and adjustments in order to manage bipolar symptoms. Give yourself generous space and time to process information and make adjustments. It’s a trial-and-error process.

Knowledge Really Is Power

Receiving a bipolar diagnosis begins a new phase of life where you have more information about yourself than before. And when you know better, you can do better.

Back to the horse scenario: You patiently wait for the horse to settle down (or begin walking). The horse needs some water, so you lead it to a pond … but you can’t make it drink! You soothe the horse and simply wait for it to figure out what to do. Once the horse decides to drink some water and move on, you climb back on and find your balance.

The last and best thought is, “I’ve paid attention to this horse, done my best to meet its needs, and things are better now.”

Aiming for Stability with Bipolar

“Bipolar acceptance” isn’t a destination, it’s a companion for our journey.

And if you’re already on a path with acceptance, now is the time to aim for stability. Whether it’s been years since you had an episode, or you’re in the middle of one right now, NOW is the time to aim for stability.

No matter who you are or how long you have had your bipolar diagnosis, now is (always) the time to aim for stability.

Acceptance isn’t about meeting criteria or someone’s expectations. It’s a recognition that you share control of your life with your brain chemistry. The best you can do is make an agreement with yourself to aim for living in harmony with it.

Originally posted January 18, 2022

The post Why Being Diagnosed with Bipolar Is Like Getting a New Horse appeared first on


By: Brooke Baron
Title: Why Being Diagnosed with Bipolar Is Like Getting a New Horse
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Published Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2022 14:00:58 +0000


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