1 month.September 27, 2018
When I got the diagnosis, my first thought was to flee the country. You know, fake-my-death-go-to-Cuba-that’s-my-only-option type thing. I do that a lot in moments like these, moments that call on an extreme reaction from myself. One time in high school, I seriously considered driving to Canada after a friend ditched me. I convinced myself the Jersey shore would do before deciding to just go home and cry about it like a normal person. It scares me because my mind says I won’t choose flight but I always feel my bones being tugged by this unknown and invisible force and I wonder if my conscience ever decides to go on vacation, if I will too.
Everything about my personality could have been predicted in the stars. I was born in the night during the heat of summer to a zodiac sign that feeds off fire. There are some things, however, the stars couldn’t predict, that are simply the way they are because of how humans operate, how the world is and how our minds process and make sense of it all.
I was born to a father with a condition like this: passionate, energetic, unpredictable and moody but I can’t speak for someone who no longer walks this earth . If I could, I’d ask him how his emotions felt when they ran through his veins, if he was ever aware he was losing control or if it occurred to him after the twister?
What about the rain showers? What about the storms that are so subtle they didn’t feel like storms at all? They start suddenly or come on softly and then they decrease in size until you forget there was ever a cloud in the sky except for the water drying on the pavement. What do we call this? It’s not exactly depression because it runs deeper. It doesn’t have meaning. It doesn’t have an explanation. It doesn’t want anything because it already has everything: you. What type of monster has the ability to take energy away only to give it back double, triple in size and intensity? The same monster that can take as quickly as it gives, where nothing is ever solid.
It’s like a hurricane, at least that’s the noun that is the easiest to understand. When people hear “bipolar”, they think category 5 with flooding and high winds marked by extreme damage and a hefty price tag to reconstruct what was loss in it’s pathway. I don’t blame them. I did too. I denied it, fought it, came back to it, asking the disease to claim me because I couldn’t describe what was going on. It didn’t sound like the bipolar I knew and that’s because it wasn’t. We forget there are different categories, different levels, a ‘spectrum’. If my illness is a storm, I can range anywhere from a 0 to a 3 but we aren’t talking storms: we are talking mental health.
Whatever it is, our minds are complicated and the same mind that takes away my ability to see the beauty in this world is the same one that provides me with my sight. The biggest challenge so far has been the confusion that comes with being diagnosed with a mental illness (for me personally, it’s about understanding where I lay on this spectrum). It means reexamining my reality, questioning every decision I make and being brutally selfish which includes the bare minimum amount of apologizes and explanations which I’m sure is insanely frustrating to some.
Telling the people I love has been even harder. (If you’re one of them and you’re reading this here before I was able to speak to you on the phone or in person, I am so sorry and I love you so terribly much. Writing it on here does not make you any less close to me. I’m sorry for not being able to face you or break it down for you yet. This is all so new and foreign). For some reason, it feels like I’m telling them that they don’t know me or what they’ve come to love about me might not be truly me at all. I’m scared they will say they don’t see the illness (which is madness to hear from the people you love when what you’re feeling is so intense and real, raw and exposed, confusing yet filled with epiphanies) but I’m more afraid of looking at them while telling them something that they might take blame for missing. For all those moments when I was extreme, I was the driver. I sometimes had passengers but this is my journey and mine alone. I never felt the need to explain myself but I’m celebrating one month of “clarity” which was actually the total opposite but I’m here and living and feeling good in the now.
Like every mental illness, we take it day by day and do what we can do to better ourselves while protecting our minds from what we have come to learn are triggers, stressors and cues. I want to call the mind sensitive because it needs as much guarding as possible but I don’t want the word sensitive holding any connotation of weakness or in need of being shielded from the world because that’s not the case. It’s a weird feeling when something that makes you feel so weak is actually building you strong.
I’ll write more updates when I feel like they are in my best interest.
Coping with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder isn’t easy. But if you or a family member or friend is struggling, there is help. NAMI and NAMI Affiliates are there to provide you with support for you and your family and information about community resources.
Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email@example.com if you have any questions about bipolar disorder or finding support and resources.