Ten Resolutions for Living Well in Spite of Having a Mental Health Diagnosis

“Resolutions to live better aren’t limited to behaviors. At a milestone in his life, blogger Brad Hoefs came up with 10 pledges addressing his attitudes about living with bipolar. It’s an inspiring list that may spur you to think about your aspirations.”  bphope.com

– April of 2016 –

In the past eight weeks, my Sister and I have moved my parents into an independent living apartment within an assisted living facility. It was not a planned move. During my Father’s third hospital stay, we were told that he could not return home but needed to be in an assisted living situation. The doctor also felt that my Mom needed the same assistance in living. So, within days, we had to secure an apartment within this assisted living facility, furnish it, and begin to empty their house preparing to get it on the market.

Needless to say, the last eight weeks have been flooded with memories of childhood. Going through your parents’ “stuff” item by item figuring out if they will need “this” in their closing years of life or is “this” something we need to give away or is “it” a keepsake is not easy. Just within my Mom’s cedar chest were dozens of items that brought back a flood of memories. Many of those memories were things that I had not thought about since I was a small boy.

Sifting through what my parents have collected through their lives has been a huge sentimental and emotional chore for my Sister and me. And of course, I’ve found myself doing some grieving knowing that this is most likely their last move. Just last week my Mom was hospitalized twice. It’s been an emotional challenge along with everything else that my wife and I have going on in our lives and work.

Three out of four of my immediate family have bipolar disorder. In each of our lives, you can trace the dots of what this disorder does to one’s life if left unchecked.

A lot of the painful memories are due to bipolar disorder and emotional issues that were never really dealt with and processed. If you follow the journey of each of our lives you can see each of us without the disorder, then the onset of bipolar, the evidence of bipolar, a “defining” episode, the diagnosis and then how we have chosen to live following the diagnosis.

Needless to say, the last months have been filled with a lot of emotions, grief, a boat load of work and a lot of time to think in the car commuting back and forth between their place and mine.

And I’ve come to some personal resolutions about how I want to continue to to live out the rest of my life in spite of or even despite having bipolar disorder:

  1. I will continue to live as well as I can no matter what. It takes work and a lot of effort, but to live well in spite of my mental health challenge is the best thing I can give to my children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.
  2. I will work through and process any emotional issues as they arise in my life.
  3. While I can’t control others, in fact, I won’t try to control others, I can control me. That alone is sometimes more than enough work! So, I’ll take responsibility for me, blaming no one else. And I will not live my life in response to how others are choosing to live.
  4. I will not die before I’m dead. As long as I have breath in my body, I will get up and live each day. I’m not going to take life sitting down trying to cope only with getting through the day. (And yes, I know there are days like that, but I am not going to let that happen every day of my life!) I refuse to let bipolar disorder rob me of living my life well.
  5. I can’t change the fact that I have bipolar disorder. And I can’t change the bad things that have happened in my life because of it. And yes, it sucks. But, there are worse things in life. What I can change is how I live now in spite having bipolar.
  6. I will never see myself “as” bipolar. Rather I choose to see myself as someone who has bipolar disorder.
  7. Life is too short to carry grudges and unforgiveness in my heart. Besides, not forgiving someone else will never hurt them but it will hurt me. As they say, not forgiving someone (which is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight) is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
  8. I refuse to wallow in self-pity or self-loathing. Nor will I allow toxic remorse or regret to swallow me whole. I won’t let up, give up or shut up about living my life well.
  9. When I screw-up I will fess up, learn from it and move on no matter how others might respond to my screw-ups. Everybody messes up, no one is perfect, including those who do not have a mental health challenge.
  10. I will always have a dog. Dogs make everything better. My dog adds happiness, friendship and joy to my life even when I’ve been a jerk. My dog loves me no matter what. (Yes, I know, there are those of you who are not “dog” people. And of course, other pets bring joy and happiness.)

I’m certain more resolutions will come about as in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime I will keep reflecting and reminiscing about my life, my parent’s lives and how incredibly fast it all goes.

Please remember, these are my personal resolutions. They may or may not “fit” for you. For me, these resolutions are about choosing to live my life well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

Here’s my question for you? How are you living your life? Are you living it? Or is “it” living you? Are you living well in spite of any and all challenges that you are facing? Or are you simply being swallowed up by the circumstances of your life?

As Scott Peck said many years ago, “Life is hard.” No one has an easy life. I’ve heard it said that 10% of life is about what happened, and 90% of life is how you have reacted to what has happened. So how are you living?

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