More than a decade ago, before I was even officially diagnosed with bipolar, I came back to the island of my ancestors to recover. My parents own a home there, and it was always the place where I could gather strength to take up the burden and move on.
I will always remember the day on my usual walk. I was troubled with heavy clouds of thoughts, some of them on the verge of psychosis, but a tiny fracture of a second an idea came to mind. I discarded it then.
It was the thought that there is no enemy outside to fight with. I am susceptible to injustice, and by definition, the world is full of adversaries at every step.
Years passed by, but the idea got stronger in me. That I need to struggle with my own inclinations so much more than other people I meet along the way. Strangely, my dad was always saying that the real victory is in the self-control. I couldn’t really understand what he meant, and dad is not good at explaining his insights. He has never been. (Unlike the poet of the Renaissance castle on the island, in this picture. His roots in ancient Greek and Roman wisdom were always inspiring, but hard to follow.)
Now, that I am awaiting the diagnosis of another condition, still struggling with bipolar, his words are making much more sense. Of course, I have a temper, and I keep losing it, I don’t have this newly acquired but actually ancient idea on my mind. But, as I said, it makes sense, and therefore it makes sense to go easy on your adversary as well. He is often within, in the end. Maybe one should be a little harsh, though when making assessments. To know the adversary and be able to deal with him.
This idea was the tool that helped me reshape my future. People who used to talk to me with admiration were mocking me in my new situation. I was obese now, but I slashed my weight almost in half. Nobody thought I could do it because of the effects of the drugs. I finished my degree, I travelled for conferences to my dream destinations. I did many more.
Still, there are many things I didn’t do, many crucial things even for the quality of my life. I didn’t make it, but one of my doctors even printed an article for me to read and consider my perfectionism that can be crippling. I guess another adversary to focus on. One that is within doing that work so no use in beating myself up even more.
To be honest, this approach feels scary, like a sort of solipsism but on the other hand, the results of gentle control of habits are visible in the outside world, and it enables us to change our reality for the better.