A Salute to Willpower

A couple days ago I tried to explain what keeps me from going berserk 98% of the time.

The simple answer? It is willpower. And I happen to have a lot of it.

You see, when a particularly nasty bipolar episode begins, there’s a big gang of evil troops that march into battle.

On my end, though, there are also troops. Good guys. I send them in to fight for my cause.

These troops on my side fighting the good fight are my willpower. They attempt to defend against negative thoughts, against suicidal and homicidal fantasies, and they have the last say when it comes to what my body does and doesn’t do, or what my mouth does and doesn’t say.

My troops are strong (and I rather like to think of them as the scantily clad warriors in the movie 300) and to be perfectly blunt, they take a lot of shit. They have had evil troops march against them innumerable times at this point, but they often still hold strong.

Unfortunately, there are times when they have been broken. With bipolar disorder, these times are more frequent than I would like to admit, but when they do happen it is usually after days, weeks, or months of depressive torture, or when hijacked by mania or psychosis, or when a wave of a mixed episode spontaneously crashes on my shores.

I don’t think people understand the willpower that people with bipolar disorder have. The sheer strength and tenacity of our willpower.

Often what people see are the moments our willpower breaks. They don’t normally recognize the work and intensity that goes into not saying something offensive. Or not throwing the phone across the room. Or not punching a stranger in the face.

I don’t think there is enough credit where credit is due. And that’s why today, I want to acknowledge and give a cyber high-five to all of the people out there fighting hard not to turn into a douchebag. Fighting hard not to yell and scream. Fighting hard not to take their own life.

As someone who knows how truly hard that is, I salute you. You are doing a good job. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Even though there are times when our battle lines get broken, I want to take the time to contemplate all the times that they did not. 

So good work. Take a second to pat your troops on the back, and by that I mean pat yourself on the back. You work hard, don’t forget it!

6 responses to “A Salute to Willpower

  1. I’m glad you wrote this, I needed this today. I very much agree with you, it takes persistence and perseverance to do the bipolar dance every day. My family wonders why I’m so tired sometimes; it’s because of the daily fight to stay sane, all day, every day.

  2. Very well put. I certainly identify!

  3. Happy, Sad & Inside the Between

    I’m finding alot of peace in reading your story. My daughter was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She is quite young and can’t yet understand and/or put words to her experience. I’m grateful for your willingness to share so authentically.

    • Thank you, I appreciate that! It definitely takes some time before one “learns the language” and is able to put their experiences into words, but with time it will become much easier for her. Take care!

  4. hear! hear! And a salute to you too. 🙂

  5. I can’t tell you how indescribably wonderful it was to read this today. I’m two weeks into a dysphoric hypomanic/mixed episode. Your blog “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” and “Crazy Girlfriend” changed my world. My wife was on the verge of leaving me and I was only too happy to show her the door and tell her about herself on the way out. Fortunately, I found your writing and shared it with her via email, since she was seeking refuge elsewhere because I was/am spinning out of control. It changed everything. She gets it now. This mood was particularly difficult to verbalize, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only putting words to what I’ve been feeling, but doing so in a way that my wife would GET. She ‘gets’ it now, and she’s back to loving me and trying to support me, instead of believing I’m an evil hateful bitch and “What did you do with my wife???”

    I felt/feel the disconnection of brain and heart, and all of the angry, sadistic, vengeful, hateful, spiteful and petty things my brain can think of become reality. The people who love me, well they don’t really, they’re glad I’m tucked away week after week because they’re sure having a good ‘ol time without me. Blah, blah.

    But then, you wrote this. Willpower. I truly don’t believe that those without this condition can fathom the amount of willpower choosing to continue to face this day after day requires. I say that because for those with bipolar, especially Type I, we do CHOOSE to continue to face this. For those without mental illness, there’s really no “choice” to be made because NOT continuing is not an option. For my Type I self, who is unwell a vast majority of the time, I have to CHOOSE every day to keep trying. Choose to keep self-assessing. To keep biting my tongue and arguing with my voices. I keep talking myself down from lashing out at family and friends, from gritting my teeth so hard they creak because it’s all I can do to hold back the primal scream fighting to break free. Constantly self-assessing to keep tabs on how I’m feeling and whether I’m “acting crazy”.

    Thanks for the ” ‘Atta girl” and the shout out to all of us struggling to keep ourselves afloat while protecting the world around us from our most socially unacceptable selves.

    Here’s to a big pat on the back, for all of us!

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