Maybe it is naïve for people with bipolar disorder (basic description of the disorder can be found at the conclusion of this article) and those who love them to hope for the power of hope—despair can skew confidence for permanent positivism. There is the delusion that people with bipolar disorder may think that stability can be maintain by daily positive thinking, medicine can be discontinued without negative consequences and support people really enjoy giving unconditional love during the ravaging of the disorder. BUT bipolar disorder is a life-time brain disease. Hoping that this disorder will simply ever go way is delusional thinking. Someday another episode rears it head. Hope has little chance of finding a secure foot-hold in a suffering soul. Yet, hope survives. Sometimes during the most heinous experiences hope is the live-saver.
Now it’s time for a story:
Jurgen Moltmann, a young German soldier, during World War II lived in an Allied prison camp. Years after liberation he wrote:
In the camps in Belgium and Scotland I experienced both the collapse of those things that had been certainties for me and a new hope, to live by, provided by the Christian faith. I probably owe to this hope, not only
my mental and moral but physical survival as well, for it was what saved me from despairing and giving up. I came back a Christian, with a new “personal goal” of studying theology, so that I might understand the power of hope to which I owed my life.
In this story “hope” changed a man’s life. As he wrote hope was the means to stay alive. He could live because somehow hope found a soul-place—a more powerful life-force than despair.
Maybe for those of us with bipolar disorder and especially for care-givers we could benefit by placing Moltman’s quote next to our bed stand as a reminder that someone in a powerless prison learned hope could save his mental health. For him and probably for many of us, hope is vital for our “mental health”.
If we use hope like wishful thinking—I hope I will be free of any episodes…” or used as optimism: “I think everything is going to be just fine. I stopped taking my medicine but I feel “‘normal’”. Hope is just a game we play with ourselves. We give hope no power. We reduce it to a mire comment in our vulnerable lives.
For caregivers it may be even easier to think and “hope” that this time the episode will be shorter-less intense-less hurful. After all hoping has not worked before. Hope can possibly be a word that creates anger and resentment. But caregivers have an extra burden. Not only do they do the best they can under trying circumstances they have an acute memory of prior episodes. They can fear the coming onslaught they anticipate because they know the signs. They remember the last episodes. Their memory can make them a more power player in the game of bipolar chaos. The caregiver can live in dread and eventually experience depression. The caregiver’s life can be a tough one. Hope is just one vocabulary word that provides little solace. Yet, hope survives.
Sometimes in the most trying of times hope is the endurance-saver. To hope for steadfastness gives the person with bipolar disorder and support people an expectation of successful management of the potential danger. Hope is powerful. It can be relied upon. With hope on one’s side the steps necessary to achieve relief can be identified. With hope as the motivator we can do what is necessary to give an increased quality of life a good chance. Our behaviors would be do take our medicine, see our doctor on a regular basis and call our health professional when things get tough. Added to these positive steps search for support and treat those people with respect and appreciation
We live with a vibrant alive hope.
Time for another story.
Julie Neraas lives with a chronic health problem. Sometimes every day is a challenge to put one foot in front of the other. Because of her experiences she wanted to share her work with hope in a book rightfully entitled,
Apprentice to Hope: A Sourcebook for Difficult Times. She wants to give people a glimpse of the emotional devastation of an everyday serious illness.
Within this context she consciously grasps for her intimate hope.
This ongoing bout with illness has left me alternately subdued, bewildered, furious, sad, distraught, resigned, angry, combative, and grateful. Yet this trial has also strengthened my relationship with hope, making my reaching for it all the more conscious.
Hope can help us. Hope can inspire us to be good to others and to take good care ourselves. Hope can be our friend. Hope can help us keeps our heads out of “la-la land”. Hope gives us courage to live –to live a life we deserve.
Broad overview of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar disorder has many expressions. No two people will mirror one another. The disorder is defined by repeated and reported behaviors that define depression and behaviors than define elevated self-esteem, grandiosity, increased energy, less need for sleep, overly angry. This is not a comprehensive list.
Mood disorders diagnosis cannot be made by the use of blood work, MRIs or other medical tests. Rather the diagnosis relies on behaviors and a detailed family history. The lengths of time of episodes or between episodes differ remarkably. Many people with bipolar disorder live months, years even decades without episodes. Others everyday must question the possibility of symptom appearances