Are we just victims?

Gabrielle ponders life's big questions

I love my Bi-Polanders' comments on my Facebook Page - not just because they are a wonderfully supportive and experienced bunch but also because they challenge my assumptions and stimulate my thinking.  For that alone I will always be very grateful to them all.

One comment got me wondering about our position as people who have bipolar disorder. I have always stated that I refuse to give my identity over to my condition and therefore NEVER say that I am bipolar.  I much prefer saying that I am Gabrielle and I have bipolar disorder.

Having clearly stated this as my position, what does it mean to have bipolar disorder? Does it mean that we are:

  • Sufferers of the illness?
  • Victims of it?
  • Owners of it?
  • Drivers of it?

I am sure most people who have this condition would agree that we suffer because of it.  So do those who love and care for us. They too suffer.  But is 'suffering because of it' the same as 'suffering it'?  I don't think so.  Suffering it puts us in the position of a hapless victim and this is not a good position to be in.  The minute we see ourselves as powerless we become powerless.  I may accept that my illness will accompany me to my grave but that doesn't mean I am resigned to give my life over to it.  I cannot control my condition BUT I can control my reaction to it and my attitude towards it.  Herein lies my personal power, not over it (because I cannot just snap my fingers to get rid of it ) but within it.  As such, we are the owners of it and it is not the owner of us;  we drive it even if it too drives us: it affects the fuel in our engine but we are still in charge of our journey.

One extremely important aspect of that journey is the relationship we establish with our treatment.  It is crucially important for us to give the medication that is prescribed to us a fair chance to help us.  Unfortunately, this often means feeling a lot worse before feeling better - and that is if we ever feel better.  Messing about with our meds is not helpful to our doctors nor to us because it makes it impossible to establish with any degree of certainty what kinds of medication suit us and which do not.

Having said that, it is equally important to own our treatment within the boundaries established by our doctors.  I make a point of ALWAYS asking my psychiatrist what 'manoeuverability' I have with dosages if I don't feel better or indeed feel worse following my visit.  After all I am the one who can tell whether my sense of wellbeing is improving or getting worse.  I am the one who triggers a visit to the shrink.  I am the one who answers his questions (my psychiatrist happens to be a man). Without my participation and even my guidance, he is pretty helpless.  This is not a common thought amongst mentally ill patients: they tend to see their doctor either as all powerful or as a wart on the backside of humanity.  Neither attitude is helpful.  The same dichotomy applies to medication: either patients see their meds as scary poisons or as magic potions that can do all the work. Neither attitude is helpful here either.

I suppose my own attitude can be summarised in this way: own your condition, own your treatment. In order to do that two things are essential"

  1. Educate yourself about your condition and learn as much as you can about it
  2. Ask your doctor questions: why does he chose this medication over another? How does he think two or three medications will work together?  The trick here is to ask without questioning his ability but rather in a spirit of genuine interest so that you can be a 'better patient'.  I have never had any negative response to this attitude from any of the doctors who have treated me.  

The one HUGE problem is this one: when we are in the depths of this illness, it's impossible to tell our backside from a hole in the ground, let alone ask questions about our treatment.  When we are that ill we have no choice but to trust and hope but that doesn't mean we have to remain in helpless victim mode for ever. In fact isn't the first function of medication to give us back  access to our individuality and our personal power?

I think so and I am now looking forward to reading my beloved Bi-Polanders' comments  :D

Am I suffer of it?.....  am I

Am I suffer of it?.....  am I a victim of it?.............        do we own it? or does it own us?....................  Does it drive us?.....


For me, I own "it". i own the good, the bad and the down right ugly.   To further explain it, when I say I own it, I am the person behind this illness.

I own the bad times in the way that when I start skidding out of control I call my "anti-skid" people, cousellor, gp, hospital, so that when I am out of control it is in a controlled environement. I am responsible for making sure this illness has a limited hurt factor on me and my family and society. It hurst them to see me in hospital, but it hurts them more, ten fold, when I am out of control and not in hospital.

I own the good times. because of this illness I have an empathy and understanding not many others have. It has led me to a variety of jobs, it has helped me meet amazing people and has enabled me to change policies and procedures of mental health in this area.

My beautiful husband loves me just as I am with this illness. He admires and cherishes how i can help someone, how also I can keep on going despite my brain is going crazy. He loves me for getting help. Getting help is the hardest thing any human can do, for any ailment.

This illness is not me, but I own the amazing attributes it has given me: Courage, Wisdom, Patience, Love, Empathy, Understanding, Insight, Compassion, Friendship.  So often I tend to focus on all the things this illness continues to take from me, but just writing the previous sentence, there are a lot of things to sitll be thankful for.


Thank you Christine

What a SUPERB comment!  I could not have written it as well myself. I feel inspired, motivated and moved by your words.

Wonderful stuff  :D xxxx

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