Several times in the past the topic of finding my purpose in life has come up in therapy. Sadie once said that a person’s purpose is usually related to her skills, so mine would probably involve writing. I’ve never really nailed down my purpose, but today in DBT group the topic came up again in a way. Among the giant binder of handouts is a sheet titled “Building a Life Worth Living”. I first filled this out in January when I joined the group, did a similar exercise on notebook paper in May, and was given the same handout again today. One thing that has stayed constant in the image of my life worth living is my blog. Since the very beginning I’ve considered it one of the aspects of my life that helps support this life worth living.
What is the purpose of my blog though? It’s not enough to just dump my thoughts on the screen – I’ve done that for well over a decade across journaling sites and social media and the blog is something different and special. I read a post today titled “Self Centered and Angry” which addressed the trend of younger bloggers focusing mostly on their personal experience and not on the bigger issues. I felt a twinge of something – a thing I can’t quite identify. I wasn’t exactly offended, because I knew the author wasn’t intending to say these personal experiences are less valuable posts, but I felt compelled to say something which is rare for a conflict-avoidant person like myself.
It was in the course of writing a comment on her post that I realized what the purpose of my blog – and by extension my book-in-progress – must be. It’s a purpose that I’ve been aware of in the past, but I never realized how important it was to me. I blog about my personal experiences of mental health treatment for two reasons. First, to let people in my life get a glimpse of experiences they have never had. More importantly, to validate the feelings of people like myself, who have sometimes felt their diagnosis was wrong or their experience somehow less than simply due to not being sensational like the many memoirs that have been published in the past. As one blogger put it to me, my life is interesting to other “boring mentally ill people”.
The other point made in the post I referenced was the extreme anger that some bloggers seem to feel. I still struggle with my diagnosis, but I’m long past any flicker of anger I may have once had. Instead, I struggle with the question of whether my diagnosis is even valid. I fall into the trap of thinking those sensational memoirs detail “real” bipolar disorder, and that in some way I manage to even fail at mental illness.
My diagnosis was based heavily on my own account of my past experiences – the person who prescribes my medication now has never seen me even the slightest bit hypomanic. I question whether I somehow over-exaggerated my descriptions. What if all those bouts of hypomania really were a normal level of energy? Intellectually, I know that spending two weeks working non-stop on learning a new programming language in order to enter a website style design contest is not normal. Emotionally, I still look at the memoirs I’ve read and say, “But I’ve never racked up thousands in credit card debt or spontaneously traveled overseas or had sex with random strangers. I must not really have bipolar disorder.”
This is completely invalidating and does absolutely nothing to help me manage the illness and move on with my life. No one should have to feel this way, and if my blog in some way helps other people see their diagnosis as valid then it’s doing what it’s intended to do.