All to often you find people that use their illness as an excuse – mental health being no exception. But where is the line between a ‘side effect’ and generic ‘personality trait’ ?
A few years ago I had a teensy bit of a breakdown.. Yknow. As y’do. I won’t go into this now (though who knows at a later date) but it was thrown together from a number of factors, it was very much a ”straw that broke the camels back” type scenario.
From then on in it was a plethora of pills, waiting lists and avoidance – from me, and from others of course. (Unfortunately outside of Hollywood it seems ‘crazy’ isn’t as ‘cool’ as they make out.)
They coined ‘depression’ as they so often do, and fed me a mishmash of meds to ‘even me out’. The Psychiatrist said there was more to it, as did my CPN. My therapist of course was fresh out of Freud School and went with the “angry with your Mum” approach. (Worth pointing out that she was the one person in my life I wasn’t angry with on any level. Idiot.)
So I plodded along, alone. Lost, confused, and more up and down than a Rockin’ Rollercoaster.
The downs were unbearable. “Brain Fog” descended, rolling in over the hills of my mind, swiftly, smoothly…. succinctly. The most basic of functions went out the window. Eating and showering were too much to even think about and swiftly disappeared as quickly as they had dared to form. I slept most of the day, as being asleep was the only peace I could find from my thoughts. Asleep, or at the bottom of several glasses of wine, which helped the merry-go-round of mania in my head quieten to an almost non-existent level.
Then one day, out of the blue – I would wake up. In every way possible. Physically, Mentally, Emotionally. I’d shower, put on my make up, grab my biggest of celebrity-esque bags and glasses, and go out. The haze was still there, but this time it seemed, different. Almost the same foggy, almost drunken haze – but so energising, so inspiring, so powerful.
I went shopping, I saw friends, I drove halfway across the country and stayed in Devon for a week. I went to France for a long weekend on a whim. Sleep was no longer a necessity. I ate, drunk, and made merry with anyone I could. I wanted this euphoria to last forever…and most importantly, wanted to make the most of it before the “fog” returned and I was as empty as my bank account once more.
Sometimes it was the smallest of things. A button fell off a coat. My hair did a crazy woo-hoo thing that I couldn’t fix just ‘so’.
And then the tears came. Ever-flowing, ever-ebbing, falling down my face. Until I was completely drained and had slipped back into the nothingness state of before.
It was a vicious cycle, with a small period of normality in the middle.
So now, after much debacle, depression has moved to Bipolar Disorder II. In Lament’s Terms (described in a rather whimsical fashion by me), I still get severe dips in depression, and I will get the ‘highs’ (hypermania) – just not as high or as often as those Disorder I types…
Explained a lot.
For me, the “labels” helped. I’m quite an analytical being I suppose. It was interesting to see how people around me reacted. How new people in my life reacted. How friends from years and years suddenly looked as though I was about to stab them in my sleep (I kid you not, one even asked if this or a similar episode were likely!!).
I did my research, understood, and 9/10 I managed the highs and lows kinda well, if I say so myself.
But I find myself sitting here and questioning my very being. My very …me-ness.
What parts of me are just that, and what parts are just designated as part and parcel of being Bipolar?
I always thought of myself as spontaneous. But was I really being adventurous, trying something new? Or was I just in the midst of a high and had no fear and on a reckless rampage?
When I was upset over an argument with a boyfriend, was it really as bad as I remembered? Or was I just in the grips of a depressive streak and couldn’t see through my own emotional state?
This self analysis almost drove me over the edge. Until I met my Dad.
We hadn’t met/spoken in 25 years. It turns out he has Bipolar, as does a number of other members of the family on his side.
It was enlightening, knowing I wasn’t alone anymore. Someone finally understood.
But – the dust settled. He was selfish. Rude. Abrupt. So blind sighted by his own wants and needs he was oblivious to what anyone else needed or deserved. I had a depressive ‘stint’ around my birthday last year, and called him for support. He told me to “get over it” then proceeded to tell everyone I needed to “get over myself and get a grip”. He has Bipolar of course. So that’s why he is like that. His “get out clause” for everything hurtful he ever said or did in life with little to no retribution. Because y’know. He has Bipolar. It’s just him. I had to accept it. Apparently.
It was at this point – I realised something important.
Bipolar doesn’t define me, its just part of me. Although it can shift my mood in any which way, it doesn’t change the fundamental components that make me ‘me’.
Here I had someone using their illness as an excuse to trample on those all around him. No matter how ill I became, I was always polite. I never resorted to violence. I never took drugs. I never hurt people intentionally, and if in the throws of an argument I said something rather more harshly than intended, I always apologised for the lack of my usual diplomacy afterwards.
I suddenly realised that ‘me’ was whoever I wanted it to be, and although Bipolar was as unchangeable as my eye colour, I could learn to live with it and make the most of what I have.
On my down days, I write, to help clear my mind, or focus on the boring ‘admin’ esque tasks that I simply can’t face any other time (filing paperwork is oddly therapeutic in a repetitive sort of way).
On my up days, I make phone calls, network, put together business plans. Design websites. Do everything I can to maximise the channel the sudden blast of energy in a healthy way.
When insomnia kicks in – I use it as a bit of extra time to get all the things done I couldn’t squeeze in throughout the day.
I adapted a new lifestyle, new friends, new diet. I took back hold of my life. And began to feel whole again, a real person. And that really counts for something.
And yes, I still get the odd creeping doubt. “Crazy” or not… I think we all do from time to time. But remembering the basis of my being is my beacon – although dim at times -to guide through the fog, a compass to ensures normality resumes once more. For life to continue in a way on those darkest of days you never thought possible. Achieving things you have never dared to before. And most importantly, doing it all for YOU, no matter what.
And to be completely honest with you, despite all the drama and delusion , the mishaps and mayhem….
I really wouldn’t have ‘me’ any other way.