What is ME and what is the Bipolar?

This is a hefty one I can’t believe I haven’t spouted about yet.

Because as far I can tell every one of us sloshes through this swamp of thinking in the aftermath of diagnosis.

I’m talking about this thought and its relatives

“Omg what is me and what is Bipolar?”

Because being diagnosed with Bipolar immediately and irreparably changes the way you view yourself, your past, your life, your personality…

Who you are

This is one of the huge and awful ways the disorder, Bipolar, is different from all the other physical illnesses we keep listing…ya know epilepsy, diabetes etc etc etc

Because when a person gets diagnosed with diabetes they do not have to think back on a time when they behaved staggeringly inappropriately and wonder if that was because of the diabetes.

They don’t have to look at their art…paintings…poems…. And wonder if it is just the product of a Diabetic mind.

They don’t have to wonder if their spiritual life is just a symptom of diabetes.

They don’t have to take all of their best memories of times when they were REALLY HAPPY and chuck them in a bin marked “just another symptom of diabetes”

They don’t have to analyze all of the bits and pieces of their personality trying to figure out what if anything exists in it that has not been shaped, formed, or marked by Diabetes.

They don’t play back the movie of their life with their jaw on the floor as the penny drops and all of a sudden SO many things that did not make sense now make sense….in a way that sometimes relieves and sometimes burns…..

And sometimes we see a true loss

No. They don’t have to do that.


Because this is Bipolar

This is that part of Bipolar that is a painful heart wrenching sucker punch

A mindfuck like no other

This is the part that takes.

That stuns

That is utterly confusing

Because Bipolar is a PHYSICAL disorder



and the brain makes our decisions

gives us our emotions

And our reactions

our personality

The brain creates our art

It does EVERYTHING about us

It controls everything about us

It is everything about us

So when your brain is fucked….

What are you?

Where are you in it?

What is real?

How can you tell?

Are your emotions, reactions, creations, decisions….



Bipolar is internal. We suffer in our brains.

And we all think…

Well then who am I?

What is my personality?

Do I just do x because I have Bipolar?

Did I like y just because of the Bipolar?

Where am I?
We all crash headlong into this crap after diagnosis.

It really matters to us after the dx. A lot of us spend a lot of time poring over our past with a magnifying glass looking for all of the Bipolar….and sifting through our personality trying to find some solid certain answers.

But you know what….most of the vets….

Don’t care about it

Because it is just another part of the acceptance of the illness

After awhile a lot of us make peace with this part

It stops mattering

Can we answer all of those questions?


But it just stops meaning so much

And this isn’t a “you are not your illness” post. This isn’t a “bipolar is something I have not something I am” post. This is not a post about how Bipolar is separate from everything else about our lives and ourselves.

Those views, while true, are too simplistic because Bipolar is not that simple.

Bipolar is just not simple.

This isn’t a post about answers. There aren’t any.

I think many of us just stumble down our own path to some sort of peace about this. It is probably highly individual.

I’m searching around in my head for the language for this

I can tell you stuff that jives with me…

After a long time with the magnifying glass….scratching my head and pondering where Bipolar ends and I begin….

I threw it down and thought to myself

“Well fuck it. If it is this hard to figure it out then whatthefuckever. Who cares.”

It started to seem that maybe Bipolar and I are SO intertwined that if we were twisted snakes and someone wanted to save me by shooting the Bipolar I would probably say NO because I wouldn’t know for sure….

(Holy shit that snake analogy perfectly describes a different feeling I have had for a long time. Eureeka! new post coming….)

Another analogy I think of is that I am the Grand Canyon and Bipolar is the water over the millions of years.

as in

I am not ACTUALLY the Bipolar. I am not made of Bipolar. I am a strong something else. BUT I am unable to deny that the Bipolar has cut so hard so deep for so long that it’s relationship with my being is substantial.

But that’s just me. Just throwing out my crazy shit thoughts in case they help someone else.

Perhaps this is more helpful….

Once I heard a newbie unload all of these thoughts…asking..

HOW do I figure out what is me and what is Bipolar?

And a very wise veteran said quite simply. …

“You don’t”


Bam. Another hard smacking truth of Bipolar.

You can try. But you will probably never know for sure about every little thing.

And somehow it just doesn’t matter

It’s complicated.

Bipolar doesn’t invalidate everything about us. Not even the parts that are SOOOOO Bipolar. They still stand.

It is just easier to relax…to stop fighting it…to stop caring so much about it….

It’s okay. You’re still there. You’re whole life is legitimate. Even that mystical mania…and even that stupid shit thing you did in 2004 under the influence of a mania…..even that moment of blistering darkness that gifted you a strength unknown to man….

A Bipolar life is just that

a Bipolar life

That’s what we got

For awesome and for worse

For all the days

We don’t have to pry it apart from anything

A laugh, a sigh, an eye roll, a tear, a pang, a sob, a head shake….when we see what Bipolar has done..been…is…..in our lives…in us

Let it be

Don’t give the figuring it out so much power that it allows the Bipolar to negate vast swatches of your life and self.

I don’t give two shits. Bipolar is in me. On me. All over me. I live in Bipolar world. Bipolar is my constant companion. I have Bipolar disorder, and I AM Bipolar.

And I have never felt more sure about who I am

I have bipolar I’m all bipolar but I don’t care about bipolar
It’s not me…but it is in my brain…

So it is part of what makes me me

And that

is just fine

with me

Why is it fine?

I don’t really know.

It just is


Add Yours
  1. Jim Buchanan

    Excellent. I have been through all of this since being Dx. in 2001. And you’re right, it just doesn’t matter. I am who I am. I laughed when I read “even that stupid shit thing you did in 2004 under the influence of a mania”, 2004 is memorable as a year when I did many embarrassing things in a 9 month mania…


  2. linda

    I loved your analogy of the two snakes. I know for me , if I had a chance to shoot that bipolar snake so twisted around me–that I could never be sure which snake is me and which one is the bipolar. It’s more like it is just a two headed snake and all one body. Can’t shoot it, cause then I would loose the other as well.

    Great writing. I enjoy your posts so much. I read them all. You are so talented and help me so much in giving me words where I could not think of any to describe things. Thank you so much for your sharing.



  3. Sandra

    O.M.G. I think I love you. This is perfection. You write like a bipolar angel, and your descriptions…le sigh…
    And this…
    “Because being diagnosed with Bipolar immediately and irreparably changes the way you view yourself, your past, your life, your personality…”
    This is exactly what punched me in the face when my doc diagnosed me. I had to catch my breath.
    You are powerful.
    Always looking forward to your next post!


  4. lolabipola

    Love it. I say “I have” rather than “I am”, but only because it kinda gives me (in my own mind, nobody else’s!) a scapegoat for when I do inappropriate shit that I wouldn’t, in my sane mind, do. Like when I’m so agitated that I want to scream at my children to “get the fuck AWAY from me” (I don’t, but I WANT to) – that’s not me. That’s bipolar. Not screaming it is me. WANTING to scream it is bipolar. I guess, for me, saying “I have” rather than “I am” helps me make sense of the incongruence of my core values and beliefs, and my behaviour when I’m unwell.

    I agree with ALL of your sentiments though – I have struggled since my diagnosis to figure out which bits of me are me, and which bits are bipolar… Which bits of my past were mania, and which were true happiness. But it doesn’t matter – those were my experiences whether they were manic, depressed, or stable. Its those experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today, bipolar or not.

    I love me a bit of hypomania (without irritability) – what I struggle with most, is the differentiation between mildly hypomanic me, and stable, able me.


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