It is a lot harder to be bipolar than the rest of the world knows. The excessive emotions. The changes in moods and cognition from beatific calm to bleak despair that accompany them. I've thought about it a lot, and I think the rules don't apply to us - I mean the spiritual rules, promises of religions - that if we live well and practice, we can be filled with joy and contentment day to day. We don't get to have that or a steady-state calm. Our lives are different in kind from normal life. It is somewhat like living in Haiti and being periodically swept by hurricanes.
The psychiatric establishment sees as its job to keep us so dulled with medication that we don't bother anyone. Parents and siblings typically blame us, scapegoat us, abuse us, abandon us. Spouses think we could do better if we'd try. By the way, that's what Vincent van Gogh's parents thought. (And, why did he have to waste so much paint?!)
You have no idea how hard we try. You have no idea how much effort we exert to keep from expressing the anger that can gust in. To pretend to enjoy a dull gathering. You have no idea how hard it is to be together with other people and be overwhelmed by irritable depression, and have to get out of there. It sounds autistic, doesn't it? Maybe it is. None of these categories are clear-cut.
I try to protect myself, but I got on Facebook a little while ago, and it wasn't my fault that I stumbled over a post by a usually lovely Buddhist friend. It showed a poster that said, Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain. Ah, life as a Gene Kelley movie. So nice. I loved that scene, myself. Those musicals were the movies of my youth. They were poor preparation for reality, but hey.
And since I once did have a more normal mind - my bipolar didn't come out to stay until I was in my early thirties - I know how good life can be, how smooth. I know that "normal" people who are not subject to the rapid or months-long extreme moods have to work on themselves, too. You have disappointments and losses too, you have illnesses (of course, so do we, on top of bipolar). You cry and mope, you get fired, you have horrible bad hair days (me too). Your family is dysfunctional, you assure me (but you should have seen mine!). Nevertheless, you danced in that rain. During the worst moments. Pardon me while I grind my teeth.
But suppose that's the truth of your life; if it is, I can feel sympathetic joy, if not downright awe. I am glad you have such fortune neurochemistry that you can feel basically happy in the face of life's ups and downs. Of course, the scene above is about being in love and dancing in the steady, even rain of a soundstage. Not about losing your job and having your roommate steal your laptop and your boyfriend.
Okay. Here's my challenge, fortunate one: Dance in a hurricane. In 150 mph winds, when tin roofs and semi-trailers are gyrating through the air around you, driving straws into telephone poles like nails. That's the dancing we are asked to do when someone who isn't comfortable around depression says, "Buck up!"
Do it. And don't forget to videotape it. It'll go viral for sure.
[Above: self-portrait of a profoundly spiritual and eccentric bipolar who couldn't hold a job, and was a grave disappointment to his parents all his life. From Wikipedia.]