Things I Took for Granted Before I Had Bipolar Disorder
There are so many things I took for granted before I had bipolar disorder. Just like many people, I was living a normal-ish life. I was 18 years old; I was at university; I was living with my boyfriend; the stats on my life were definitely in the meaty part of the bell curve. And as such, I certainly never thought about mental illness. I wouldn't have been able to correctly define bipolar disorder for you for a million dollars. Those are days I miss. And looking back, so many things were different before I had bipolar disorder.
Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, I Never Thought About Cleaning Myself or Anything Else
These days, I had to work myself into taking a shower. There are lots of reasons for this, but suffice it to say that bipolar has changed the way I view showering forever. But back before I had bipolar disorder, I don't remember thinking once about showering or bathing -- not once. Those topics used up no brain cycles, and I just did them out of habit -- much like everyone does. It would have been entirely possible to forget whether I showered on a particular morning because it was so unimportant it wouldn't even resonate in my memory.
The same is true for cleaning my environment. Before I had bipolar disorder, picking up the vacuum cleaner or the duster was just something I did. My environment was clean because that's what you do.
Now, thanks to depression and other chronic illnesses, I have to plan when I clean and save my energy to do it. Now, things get dirty all the time because I just don't have the energy to clean my environment as I should.
Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, I Thought About Time Much Less
My life is currently ruled by a routine. A wake-up time, a pill time, more pill times, food times, and so on are all part of my daily plan.
But before I had bipolar disorder, I didn't think about a "daily plan" at all. If I slept in, I slept in. If I felt like skipping breakfast, I did. If I wanted to go out, that's what happened. My day was built around what I wanted to do rather than what I had to do. Time on the clock may have had an impact, but it wasn't the driving force of so many little actions I had to commit.
Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, I Could Sleep
Nowadays, sleep is a significant priority for me. Messing with my sleep messes with my bipolar disorder, and I simply can't have that. So, now I have a pre-bedtime ritual, and I go to bed at the same time every night, no matter what. And if my sleep is disturbed for some reason, I know trouble is brewing with my mental illness.
But before I had bipolar disorder, I used to sleep nine hours a night without thinking about it. When I went to bed wasn't a priority. My body decided when I woke up. Sleep was a thing that happened at night without question. When you go to bed, you sleep. It was that simple.
Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, I Wasn't So Conscious, Mindful, and Introspective
I've always been a bit of an introspective person, but now, that introspection is an irreversible habit that consumes my days. I have to watch every little thought and every little emotion because so often, they are coming from my sick brain and not me. I have to be mindful, at times, because it's the only way to deal with some of my bipolar and anxiety symptoms. I have to use pointed self-talk every minute of every day to try and fight back all the thoughts that are trying to kill me. I have to carefully moderate my actions because I can't allow them to be driven by bipolar thoughts.
But, oh, before I had bipolar disorder, my thoughts and feelings just happened. My actions just happened too. They were driven by reasonable thoughts and emotions. I didn't need to put thought algorithms between my brain and the outside world. I didn't have to think about thinking all the time. It left so much room for other things.
Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, Things Were Simpler
I miss all those things that I took for granted. Not having bipolar disorder simplifies your everyday. Not having bipolar disorder streamlines your everyday. And so, before I had bipolar disorder, because I wasn't consumed with thoughts about my thoughts and feelings, drumming up effort to clean, worrying about getting a decent night's sleep, when I have to take my pills, and so much more, I had time and space to actually figure out what I wanted to do and do it. Before I had bipolar disorder, my days were normal, and I certainly took that for granted.
It's really okay to take normality for granted. It's what everyone should have by default. But maybe, just for a second, consider what it would be like to be disabled. Consider what it would be like if bathing took all your effort and you had to rest after it. Consider what it would be like to take pills three times a day, only with food, at the same times every day, and deal with myriad side effects afterward. Consider someone else's struggle for a minute and then realize how lucky you are to take so much for granted. I wish I were right there with you. But I never will be. Consider that.
Tracy, N. (2023, January 23). Things I Took for Granted Before I Had Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2023/1/things-i-took-for-granted-before-i-had-bipolar-disorder
Author: Natasha Tracy
Thank you for putting into words what is like to have bipolar before and after.
Reading your article, I realize I've forgotten my "before life." I'm so used to my new "normal." By the way, I only shower when I have to go out for an appointment, social or medical, or if I feel particularly sticky for whatever reason. I work from home and don't sweat much, even when I exercise... but it's more than that. Showering is such a shock on my system. Too many spoons all at once I guess!
Thanks for your comment.
FYI, I've written about not showering here: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/03/why-dont-we-want-to-shower-whe…
I agree with your comment on how it steals spoons.
-- Natasha Tracy