Sometimes my motivation to do something is simply so that the disease will not win. I have bipolar disorder, which is a polite way of saying I am manic-depressive. I’ve noticed that I tend to become unbalanced when I stop taking care of myself. The biggest thing I can do to take care of myself is to make sure I get enough sleep and avoid stress. Eating well, exercising, and making art also help a lot.
It is easy to equate avoiding stress with not doing anything that is difficult. But to me that is letting the disease win. It is very important for me to defeat it so I set goals and reach for them so that I get stronger. Every time I achieve one of these goals it makes it easier for me the next time.
It makes it easier for me to look at this disease when it says “No, you can’t do that” or “That is too hard for you.” and say “But look at these four other things I’ve done and I did them just fine.”
That is why I take classes. One of the hardest classes was the pastoral care class that was downtown on Tuesday nights. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of taking a class every Tuesday for nearly three months. Then it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of having to drive myself downtown at night. It was hard for me to even imagine asking my boss for that time off to do it. But I did it all because I knew that what I was doing was important. I did it because I didn’t want the disease to win.
While I knew that what I was going to learn from the class was going to be important, what I was going to learn from just attending the class was going to be even more important. It was going to teach me that I can take care of myself.
I used to be really good at driving. I used to drive myself everywhere alone for hours at a time. I drove by myself to Washington, DC work one summer. That was a 10 hour drive, one way. But then something changed when my bipolar disorder manifested. Shortly after I was diagnosed, I went on a camping trip and I got so unwell that I had to be driven home. Everything I owned had to be packed up for me by my friends, and I had to have someone else take me home.
It affected me, not only because it was embarrassing, but also because I don’t want to be a burden to other people. I don’t want to get to a point where I have to have someone else rescue me. So it is important for me to not put myself in situations where I think I’m going to fail. But that sometimes meant that for years I didn’t put myself in any situations at all. It meant that sometimes I only did things that were safe. And when I only do things that are safe, I don’t grow or get stronger.
And that is letting the disease win. And I can’t let it win or it will eat me alive. So I keep pushing myself.