Kat Atwell is a freelance writer, blogger & stage presence telling stories that deliver laughs, validation & community.

Mental Health | Wellness & Self Image | Experiential & Reviews

The Pacifist and the Warmonger

Is it better to accept or to fight a brain condition?

Over the weekend, I found myself a part of an online debate about how one handles mental health diagnoses. A blogger indicated he felt that living with bipolar is to spend a lifetime alert and defensive, ready to battle at any moment. He was very aggressive about his stance - that to live successfully with bipolar, one has to be diligent. He has to be a warrior. He posited that bipolar should not be something to celebrate because it is a disorder, a disease.

As I remarked to him on Twitter, I disagree with his position. This is not to suggest I don't see the seriousness in bipolar whatsoever; I know there are risks inherent with the diagnosis, and to pretend otherwise would be dangerous.

For me, though, it's less stressful to simply accept that I have bipolar.  And I'm not suggesting my fellow blogger doesn't accept his diagnosis - that came out wrong. I choose to live with my condition. I invite it into my house and apologize for how messy it is. I offer it coffee. He chooses to be aware of his condition by yelling at it to stay off his lawn. I really ought to ask him if this is accurate. I feel like it is. The tone implies as much.

If I have to be hyper-vigilant about my condition, and constantly wonder what's going to happen next, I lose my ability to be mindful. I don't want to be my own mental sniper. Worrying about the future makes me a better worrier; I'd rather strive to be a better person.

I don't need to get any better at worrying. Sadly, I'm a pretty fantastic worrier already.


Also, it made me curious as to why a person would believe that having a brain condition is utterly devoid of positives. There are benefits to most things, and oftentimes it's from our weaknesses our strength derives. That's probably a quote. I'm pretty sure I just paraphrased a quote. Anyway.

I do appreciate that my brain allows me to go higher, and consequently, go lower. My yin and yang are simply on a grander scale. Having bipolar has created within me a stronger sense of empathy, and it's enabled me to speak directly about the condition to others. I have the gift of letting people know they are not alone. This is a huge reason behind why I love storytelling as much as I do. It builds connections. It brings us together. 

So, tell me a story. I'd rather be intent on listening to you than focused on what might happen next as a result of having bipolar.

Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.
— Morgan Harper Nichols

The Buffalo.

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