We’re all bipolar

There are two ways to respond to adversity, setbacks, and losses. You can either survive or you can thrive. In other words, you can be weak or strong. The choice is yours. Two people can be laid off from work. One will start his own internet company and become successful, the other will wallow and be paralyzed by self-pity. The circumstances are the same, but the responses are wildly different. I am continuing to explore why that is. Resilience is key. The answer to how one bounces back and thrives is essential to succeeding in today’s whirlwind changes and challenges and makes all the difference in the world.

Living with and managing the emotional oscillations of bipolar II disorder (manic-depression) since I was 15 has been the defining and most challenging aspect of my life. It wasn’t correctly diagnosed until I was 47, so any treatment up to that time was ineffective. Back then we didn’t know what we were dealing with exactly, and if we did, there weren’t many treatment options available. The result has been bone jarring depression through most of my young and productive years. One needs to bounce back from a painful past as well. Many do; many do not.

When the manic moments kicked in, I misperceived them as my normal self. They, too, however were irrational and detrimental.  It was a rough go for a long time.

I now have an amazing doctor who helps me manage my illness and an incredible support system that encourages me in my journey. Particularly me wife, who is a model of resiliency as she continues to bounce back from the ramifications of my illness on our lives and is instrumental in helping our family thrive in spite of it. I married way over my head, and one of the most resilient persons on the planet!!

All that is to say, my experience has given me first hand knowledge, and the “scar tissue”, to explore the dynamics of being strong and weak (manic and depression) in responding to events in life. Depression could have led to many tragic responses, but I resisted those. The mania could have gotten me into big trouble in many ways, but I resisted those. Why is that? I believe it was resilience, and the openness to allow crisis to grow into a better, stronger person.

I also realized that life itself is bipolar. There are ebbs and flows, ups and downs, weakness and strength. It can often seem that there are more lows in life than highs. There is no getting around that. We need to accept that that is life and move on. To do so requires resilient skills for dealing with the relentless and accelerating challenges of life, and making the choice to live effectively in its oscillating, wavelike reality.

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2 comments on “We’re all bipolar
  1. Ken says:

    In the 12 step programs it is phrased- “keep coming back.” My current personal one- Don’t quit before the next miracle!

  2. Kim says:

    I forwarded that to several friends and relatives, and saved it to reread over and over – Thanks as always for letting God use you and your struggles to bring hope and healing to your friends and readers….

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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