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Is Life Ever Normal for a Person with Bipolar?

June 25, 2013 Natasha Tracy

A normal life is something I’m not very familiar with. I’ve never really had one. From the time I was a kid with an alcoholic father, to the teenage years I spent depressed, to my adult years dealing with psychiatrists, symptoms and medication side effects, I’ve never really enjoyed anything termed normalcy.

But the question is, does anyone with bipolar enjoy a normal life?

What’s a Normal Life?

Now, people will tell me that there’s no such thing as a normal life. These people are wrong. There is such a thing as normalcy. You might think of it as the “average.” There’s always an average and yes, there is an average life. I would say the average life, a normal life, consists of happiness, sadness, anger, glee, and other emotions all wrapped into one. But these emotions are moderated. They run a reasonable spectrum as do experiences. In a normal life, people are generally well. People do not have to fight every day to stay alive. People don’t have to worry about brain altering medications. People do not concern themselves with psychiatrists. People do not have to track every mood. The normal life is outside of all these things.

What’s a Bipolar Life?

Well, that depends on who you ask. I talk to a lot of people with bipolar disorder and I would say that a life with bipolar is a life that is, at least in part, dictated by bipolar. It’s a life where bipolar needs to be taken into account almost every moment in the day. It’s a life where medications and routines and sleep and food and exercise and therapy and doctor’s appointments all must be made the priority. It’s a life that may contain normal elements, but sure the heck also contains abnormal elements. Emotions tend to be extreme. Coping mechanisms must continually be applied. People must use the tools they learn in therapy all the time. It’s a life that cannot be separated from the illness.

Bipolar is Like That

But bipolar is like that. Bipolar is an illness of the brain. Your brain is in every part of your life and so is the bipolar. Persistent, serious, long-standing illnesses creep into every aspect of your life. But this is on purpose. This creeping into your life is what needs to happen if you plan to stay well. You need to control for the bipolar variable all the time, everywhere. So it makes your life really abnormal.

Have I Ever Had a Normal Life?

That being said, for some people, they can get away with just thinking about their bipolar sometimes. They might be able to go days without it seriously entering into the consciousness. When things are going well, this is possible. When medications are working, this can happen. When you’re in remission, bipolar doesn’t have to be at the forefront of every moment.

But as for me, this rarely occurs. Things rarely “go well” for any extended period of time. If I forgot about my bipolar (which I never do) that would just lead to it coming back with a vengeance. If I didn’t use all those fancy coping mechanisms and therapeutic tools and medications and whatnot my bipolar would just come back all the stronger. So I can’t forget about it. It’s a constant battle. Ignore that battle at your own peril.

But that is just me. Do you think your life is like everyone else’s? Do you have a “normal” life? Is it even possible?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, June 25). Is Life Ever Normal for a Person with Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/06/is-life-ever-normal-for-a-person-with-bipolar



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

JB
June, 27 2013 at 4:41 pm

All of these responses can be real and accurate. For long stretches I felt that I could forget my bipolar disease... Take the meds.. No worries. Until it doesn't work and there are worries and consequences. Five years... Then one outrageous email and a director level job fine. Six more years and a stay at a hospital in an inpatient basis, and the loss of my closest friend of five years and love. So, do e live a normal life? Sometimes, but we always have to ask, how long will it last?

judy
June, 27 2013 at 10:49 am

Lew H. - it's weird to be in a place where you're merely existing. I'm sorry - it is sad and depressing. Everyday should feel like a new day. Bipolar and life seems to suck that out of us. I hate it and always will.

Lewis Hotchkiss
June, 27 2013 at 7:53 am

I've been abnormal all my life. Only recently, since my August 2012 hospitalization have I come to realize that I must be a better medical pro than the pros. They don't have the ability to monitor my minute to minute mental/physical conditions.
I keep track of everything that I do. . . literally my own security team.
I involve my medical/psychiatric team whenever needed. Today I did when I had to start drinking beer again because my anxiety has gone beyond what mediatation, waves CDs, music, and clonazepam can do. But I told my team that I'm adding beer for now. Next week I'm adding melatonin to my pre-bedtime meds to help calm me for sleep.
Until then, beer.
Everyday is an adventure. Everyday is different.
And I end up more alone everyday.
No friends.
My kids are dumping me.
Life basically sucks, but I continue on anyway. Why? Neo said it best in The Matrix: "Because I choose too."
---Lew H.

Melissa
June, 27 2013 at 6:23 am

And there's knowing all your life that you were not normal and being told that you could act normal if you just tried hard enough (reference Jill above who may be in denial). At least a diagnosis explains the problem and offers tools and strategies for coping.
I hate the callousness of being told that there is no normal, and all this emphasis on drugs is just the drug companies trying to destroy all originality. Yeah, that's right, because dangerous mania and suicidal depression are just a part of the beautiful tapestry of life. You'd be fine if you just didn't make such a fuss about it, but if your mania makes you a danger to yourself and others, we'll just pop you into a straight-jacket and tuck you in this rubber room and forget about you and go back to our beautiful tapestry of life where nobody is abnormal because there is no normal. (rant much?)
I know it's rude to flog your own blog on somebody else's, but in the spirit of sharing bipolar experience, I'm doing it anyway. Sorry. THis is a blog post on writing while bipolar.
http://www.melissalmccann.com/1/post/2013/02/all-the-best-people-are-mad.html

Ruthann
June, 27 2013 at 6:08 am

Mine never has been- at this point it looks normal to others, but they don't know what a battle I fight every single day. After 62 years it is exhausting.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jackie
February, 10 2019 at 1:28 pm

I am so sorry. I can't imagine how hard life can get for you.
I'm not a "troll", but rather a person trying to understand this disease in a family member, that
is so hard to understand. But even more hard for her to control, I'm sure!
It's helpful to read how others are struggling because it makes it easier to help her as much as anyone can help.
To be very honest, she completely exhausted me and most of the family have just pulled away.
I don't want to do that to her.
Your stories are very helpful, so thank you!

February, 10 2019 at 1:53 pm

Hi Jackie,
It's great that you're trying to understand. We (people with mental illness) really appreciate that. I know we can be hard, but I like to think we're worth it.
You may also want to check out my personal blog and book (linked in my bio under the word "Author").
Good luck. It's a hard journey but one you can both get through.
- Natasha Tracy

emily
June, 26 2013 at 2:57 pm

I think some people with bipolar respond very well to lithium or some other drug or therapy that they received early in the course of their illness- and then their illness does not play such a big role in their lives. But if you have spent many of your formative years being sick without the proper diagnosis and care, and if you don't respond to the first medication tried- it is quite different. Having a "treatment resistant" case of bipolar does not mean that the patient is resisting treatment, it means that the illness is particularly hard to treat- sort of like antibiotic resistant bacteria. I think many of those who are easily treated don't understand what all the fuss is about. Just take a pill. (if only it were just one pill, and if only I knew which one would make me better, I'd be happy)

evette
June, 26 2013 at 6:23 am

thank you, Sarah.. for your kind and pertinent words.
i think you are right on with all you said; and summed it up just right.
i'm sorry for reacting and becoming angry, i'm sure you and many others know the frustration i speak of; and i believe it is best to relax, ignore.. take it easy and do what we can. do the things that bring us happiness and focus on those..
i don't want to allow someone(s) with their lack of ability to understand to allow me to go to 'that negative place,'
i could have overreacted, as i am now reading again and the first poster, Jill.. says she may or may not be ' as bipolar as (her) dx indicates. '
thank you for your caring words, they make perfect sense.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Bibiana
February, 26 2019 at 12:10 am

Evette, they are ignorant people. They are not worth getting angry at.

Sarah
June, 25 2013 at 9:07 pm

evette we call such people trolls. They set a bait and unfortunately you walked into the trap. They troll the internet trying to get such a reaction. In future you will know not to feed the trolls.
I struggle with the same issues as you are, but there is hope, there are plenty of times in your future when things will seem normal again. I have relaxed my regimen, going with the psychiatrists even though they do make mistakes, seeking the help of counsellors when I need them, and trying to follow a general routine. Constantly being at war with the illness will exhaust your adrenal glands. Try to relax and do the things you enjoy.
Best of luck

evette
June, 25 2013 at 5:03 pm

jill for you to even suggest this :
" I wonder if people who are always thinking about their illness need it for their identity. "
makes my blood boil. my life is totally compromised by my illness, and i wish the truth was anything but that.
it's people like you who really make the world a special place...
congratulations on your enormass compassion and ability to think objectively-
it's people like you who make my already living hell life that much worse.. if hell can be worse on earth in a body with an illness that is invisible and no one understands.
you obviously don't have bipolar... so why are you even on here, reading this?
i hope you see my comment and it makes your conscience squirm with embarrassment and guilt.
i hope you pray for forgiveness... on this one, cause the results of such a careless worldview and comment are very dangerous to others who's lives teeter-totter between being barely livable, - to complete hell on earth.
g-d have mercy on you.

cindyaka
June, 25 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi! Right now I feel normal. I remarked as much to a friend who didn't know I was bipolar.She has depression and knew what I meant.I am in remission and quite grateful for it. There was a time where I was hyper vigilant with my routine,afraid the bipolar would come back with a vengeance. So far, so good, I'm still careful about my routines and do keep them well. It is nice to feel normal as pertains to my view of it.

Jackie
June, 25 2013 at 10:53 am

Maybe I am not bipolar as my diagnosis indicates. Maybe I am in remission. My life is almost always normal - except when it's not and that has not been the case for a long time. I wonder if people who are always thinking about their illness need it for their identity.

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