I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression. It’s a condition that manifests in extreme variances in mood. Most people have good days and bad days. Manic depressives have weeks of severe depression and periods (typically not as long) of mania or hypomania which are characterised by compulsive behaviour (similar to ADD), hyperactivity, low attention, restlessness, extreme creativity and in full blown mania delusions, risky behaviour and in extreme cases hallucinations.
Expect to see quite a few articles on my blog about Manic Depression in regards to various life situations, but today I want to focus on a specific platitude that people without emotional disorders find easy to follow.
It’s an old adage, that to succeed in anything, be it a relationship or just having the self-confidence necessary to achieve one’s goals, you must ‘love yourself first.’ It’s potentially a truism; feelings of unworthiness and insecurity make it difficult to connect with other people, to empathise. To succeed in most things, you must have the confidence and motivation within yourself to want to make it happen.
But if you suffer from a depression related disorder, it’s unlikely that anybody views you in a worse light than you do, and trying to love yourself feels impossible. It’s easy to give up on empathising, to give up on relationships of any sort, romantic or otherwise, as you feel you’ve nothing positive to contribute.
So how do you love yourself? How do you overcome the deep-seated self-loathing of depression. Is it even possible?
The problem with this is how love is seen by most people. The popular idea is that to love somebody, you must love them unconditionally – love every part of them, even the things you don’t like. This is unhelpful because nobody is perfect, and everyone has flaws.
It’s far more helpful to see love as acceptance – love the parts you want to celebrate, and accept that those you don’t are also an integral part of the person, part of the payoff. If you try to love characteristics that you don’t like you will end up feeling resentful, if you hate them you will find it impossible to see past them. If you accept them, then that allows you to admire the uniquely incredible qualities of the person in question.
But what if that person is yourself? In relationships you can decide that the bad qualities are too many to be worth waiting for the good. With yourself, you can’t be choosy, you are who you are.
So, first, decide what qualities you would change if you could. Can you change them? Do you see yourself as lazy; find something that inspires you to get out of bed in the morning to do them. Maybe you rise an hour earlier to do some painting before going to work.
That still leaves an ocean of unchangeable bad qualities that you perceive about yourself if you have depression. Maybe you see yourself as uncontrollably selfish, or that others see you as a creep, and no amount of reassurance can change your mind.
Instead of trying to forgive yourself of the qualities, accept that you are prone to thinking in these ways, because of who you are or the condition that you suffer from. Be realistic, but allow yourself the opportunity to believe that not everyone will see you in that way.
To reiterate, love is acceptance. There are many things about me that I do not love; but I am able to accept that they are a necessary evil in allowing me to be me, which enables me to have qualities or do things of which I am proud. Without Bipolar Disorder, I wouldn’t be able to write or perform music, at least not in the way I do. I wouldn’t have the creative energy that I do. To give up on my less favourable qualities, would be to give up on my best also.
In short, I may never be able to fully love myself, but I can accept who I am and that acceptance is enough that I can begin to empathise and connect.