Navigating Life With Bipolar


“When walking alone in a jungle of true darkness, there are three things that can show you the way: instinct to survive, the knowledge of navigation, [and] creative imagination. Without them, you are lost.”
Toba Beta,
My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

Mental illness is often just that. A jungle. A jungle that we’ve all been dropped into. All at random, in different places, near different landmarks; but all seemingly dropped in with no knowledge other than the will to survive. Some find rivers; some find fruit trees. Some make bows to hunt, and others make shelter their priority. We all try to survive differently, but humanity isn't built to survive this way. We're designed to live as a community. Helping each other, teaching each other, sharing with each other… This is how we grow.

Unfortunately for me, I had no idea I was stuck in a jungle on my own for so long. I’d lived there so long I had no idea that my brash caveman-like mannerisms, inability to communicate and moods weren't just late maturity, I thought I was still living within teenage emotions and mindsets. I had long forgotten that when I was younger, things were much different. I was odd, but I was a big thinker. I was creative. My problem-solving skills were novel. I was different, but if given the chance I could flourish. Nowadays that liberty is scarce because a child's thoughts and actions are easily passed off as just that, childish. Being a thriving adult is a much tougher task.

I’m diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder, type 2 to be more precise. It has made life both incredibly difficult and incredibly wonderful at the same time. On one hand, I can't always perform the kind of tasks we're expected to do as an adult: budget, look after hygiene, work efficiently, etc. but on the other hand I can see the wild, untamed beauty in the farthest star and the closest spec of dust. My imagination seems limitless at times; but imagination doesn't pay bills, not all the time. I have learned how to navigate through this life despite the wild winds I face daily.

I’ve learned to be quiet and let my soul be still when I feel that rush of energy surging up again; I’ve learned to invest the moments I can barely move to dreaming and thinking about the beauty of all things. It wasn't easy, it was something that took time. I also had to recognize when my emotions were swinging. I had to learn to appreciate the things I could see, the things my bipolar made me see that others couldn't. Sometimes I needed to catch the gusts of windblown by my mania, other times I had to drop anchor to weather the storm of my depression. It was all about learning to understand myself and my illness.

I may not look like an artistic, philosophical, soul-searcher to the naked eye. I'm slightly scruffy, work as a cleaner and study business; however, I learned that thriving in life is not about what you do, but how you do it with what you’ve been given.

Written by Luke Tumelty.