When it comes to challenges that I face in my everyday life, I find that trying to positively reframe challenging or frustrating situations can make a world of a difference.
For me, adjusting my perspective on a certain topic or problem makes the issue becomes less of an issue in general. I found this to be especially helpful when it comes to managing my bipolar disorder and learning to find ways to love myself even when I’m very symptomatic.
It’s definitely difficult to keep the positive things about a mental condition in mind when certain symptoms are so debilitating and othering, which is a reality I exist in with my anxiety and mania. I’ve always been embarrassed of the way my mania has made me more loud and enthusiastic than everyone else in the room. And my anxiety, besides the fact that it can be incredibly visible, has tortured me because of the way it has made me more obsessive, nervous and reclusive than my friends.
Ruminating on my anxious and Manic thoughts only made it more difficult to manage them. The ruminating also has contributed to making me very self-conscious and focused on how the world is perceiving me when I’m experiencing symptoms of any kind.
But recently, after speaking with my fiancée’s mom about it, I began to try to look at my symptoms in a slightly different way. She reminded me that I hadn’t ever tried looking at my symptoms from a more positive perspective, acknowledging the ways my illness makes me unique and valuable.
I realized that my anxiety, while terribly trying at times, makes me an incredibly detail-oriented and organized person. These qualities are the differentiators when it comes to jobs and creative projects — they are what help keep my more disorganized partner on track. I’ve even realized that certain nervous habits I have when I’m anxious, like biting my lip, are things that my partner considers cute.
Since many folks that I’m friends with experience anxiety, I’ve always been a bit more self conscious about my Manic tendencies. Laughing loudly and for much longer after everyone stops, and screaming laughter uncontrollably whenever I see a dog on the street has often isolated me in friend groups with judgmental stares and icy silences. While I’ve always been self conscious about being the friend with no chill, my mania gives me enormous energy and passion about the things and people I care about. I’ve found that this has made me better partner, friend and listener. Plus, my partner finds my loud reactions to cute dogs or farm animals incredibly endearing.
While it’s completely valid that one would be frustrated with, and sometimes feel burdened by, their mental health symptoms, it’s essential to practice a little self love and optimism in learning to manage your illness. Finding the points where your symptoms and personality separate can be difficult and feel like a necessary task in learning to cope with your behavior. But accepting that your personality and your symptoms can and do intersect in many positive ways has been a more helpful way for me to deal with my own bipolar. And by making those realizations, it has become a little easier for me to accept my illness and my individual personality as something to love.