There is a normal. I'd forgotten what it felt like, I'd forgotten how it felt not to be in one chemically driven state or another, I'd forgotten what it felt like not to feel myself defined by how something - something wrong in my brain - was making me feel.
There are various levels of depressed states. There are various levels of manic states. And there are the dreaded mixed states. Mixed in there could be "normal" but in the swirling chaos of the other states coming and going and crossing over, "normal" gets lost and barely registers on one's consciousness.
The last four years have been particularly intense as far as changing states goes and greatly distanced "normal" from my memory. It was something that I thought I'd have to completely redefine and relearn, a task that both excited me and daunted me. There were times I didn't think I could do it.
But lo and behold, something has arrived. It feels familiar. I have to reach back a long way to find a point of comparison, but it's there; something I feel as normal. Not down, not up, and certainly not mixed.
It's hard to put a finger on exactly what turned the corner. Pharmaceutical help is playing a big role for sure. My dosage was increased a few weeks ago and that's helping greatly in the overall balance of brain chemicals. I've been doing my "homework"; stuff I give myself to do to work on my mental outlook. I take "happy pills", various vitamin complexes that have been shown to help boost moods naturally and safely. Something that's very important for sufferers of Bipolar Disorder is regularity of schedule. I returned to work a few weeks ago so I'm sure the routine of work has helped as well. Of great importance is the incredible support I've received from a very wonderful group of people I have the privilege of knowing through an online community. I could NOT have done this without them.
Whatever the case, it's all added up to a state of feeling really good. I feel optimistic. Not the grandiose, devil may care optimistic of mania (something I'm far too familiar with and which got me in considerable trouble the last few years), but the kind of optimism I can recall from non-ill times years ago. I'm feeling more mellow and less irritable. My mind isn't plagued by racing thoughts and negative thoughts. Instead, I feel a more natural, progressive train of thoughts happening.
Overall, I just feel great. As good as I've felt, I was thinking, in about four and half years, maybe longer.
Now the trick is to hold this feeling, this state, this mood, and try to keep working on making it the 'base me' again. And it IS work. Little things, daily things, but work nonetheless. For Bipolar Disorder never leaves. Ever. There will be relapses. That is just the nature of the illness and not anything one can control. It's not something that pharmaceuticals can fully control. So it's important to work on this state of "normality" as much as possible. To more fully make it me. To more fully define it. To find things that make it more real. To find touchstones that can help me return to it when I suffer serious relapses.
But mostly ... well, mostly I just want to enjoy it. After the four most recent years of mind-bending intensely chaotic internal struggles and the much longer period of constantly up and down mental states, I am glad to see the Bipolar Bears go into hibernation.
So while it is important to know what got me to this place of feeling great, I don't want to think about it too much. I just want for a while to enjoy the simple pleasure of feeling normal.