#bipolarstrong: Like Thundershirts, but for People

I used to hate hashtags. To me, they were number signs, pound signs, or tic-tac-toe boards, in that order. Alas, when I began integrating them into my Facebook use, I began to appreciate the subtlety and nuance that emerge. The ways in which people are able to communicate thoughts, be humorous, connect with others who can relate, educate those who cannot, and connect to communities that are trying to affect positive change.

#bipolarstrong is obviously a take-off of “Army Strong,” which I didn’t like when it debuted, for myriad reasons, but mainly because it meant the retiring of the “Be All You Can Be” jingle, which my friends and I repurposed many times for the purposes of D&D and pretty much any other riff on it that our addled teenage minds thought was funny. But as I grew in experience and through challenges, I began to understand that there are particular strengths that go with specific disciplines. Nurse strong is different than Army strong, but they both are strengths. Ofttimes, there is a sense of connection within the various communities of strong. I remember listening to a report on NPR when the new slogan was released; everyone who was interviewed didn’t like it, except for one person. A soldier who said, “I know what Army strong is, so, yeah. It’s true.”

I am at a good place right now, but people who live with chronic and invisible illnesses will know that “good place” often means managing at least half of the attenuating challenges. I have excellent doctors now. Insurance is working in some major areas, but not in others. However, given what the present Administration wants to do to healthcare, I’m pleased. The surgery on my ears has helped. All wonderful things. But I also am not sleeping; I had one good night in which I had one cycle of uninterrupted REM. Since then, it takes at least 3 hours of actively trying to sleep (please; no advice, as I have tried everything and simply have to go with a system that works for me), and when sleep comes a myriad of things wake me up: apnea symptoms, snoring, having to pee (I dehydrate incredibly quickly, so I drink water constantly), or the cats. The tinnitus is so loud now that I have to have both white noise and another form of low-volume sound to be able to attempt mentally blocking it out.

A big problem has been clothes. My tactile issues have impacted my life more than I’m really willing to talk about now, but I have finally found some items that work. Therefore, I have bought these articles in every color I could find/afford. Thank Jesus, if he has a hand in textiles, that these items are also very good on our budget. I need flowing clothes that are also fashionable.

Today I received a new element. While I want flowy clothes, I am also a bit like Temple Grandin in that I also need to be constricted to remain calm and secure. So I bought three compression shirts, and I have been wearing one for about 4 hours. It is not so tight that I can’t breathe–seriously, how do people do corsets?–but tight enough that I feel held together, literally and metaphorically. They’re like thundershirts, but for people.

#bipolarstrong to me means knowing both my limits and my needs. It is addressing that which I can before asking others to help but asking for help when I need it. It means communicating with people and acknowledging that it is strange to have some of these conversations, I get it, but for the betterment of our relationship, having it necessary. I hope that, in return, people will feel that I will receive the needs of others as their statement about what I can do to help them feel heard and safe.

Bipolar strength is born of weaknesses addressed.

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