Hello again my faithful followers! You may have noticed my sudden disappearance again. There is a very good reason for that! A few, actually.
One: Lack of inspiration.
Two: Summer time at a hotel.
Three: Low swing.
I’ve kept the third one vague since that is the topic of today’s post. Wouldn’t make sense to spoil the ending before I’ve even started. Little teasing before we actually begin. 😉
First of all, what is up with the rude people that come out of the bottom of the barrel when it is summer time? I know it’s hot, but come on! Rudeness costs, people. Being polite will get you quite far, and pays better benefits. I want to badly to yell back at people when they act like assholes to me, but I’m paid to be nice. So I can’t. But yell at me when I’m off the clock and I will hurt you.
Nah, not really, but in my brain I’ve already killed you off in my next book. Painfully.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can move on to the actual purpose of this blog. I want to talk about Bipolar Disorder.
What does is Bipolar Disorder? I’m glad you asked! The National Institute of Mental Health gives us this as a definition:
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
So is it a disorder, or an illness? Is it the same as manic depressive, or is it different? The definition changes from here to there as to what exactly it is, but anyone who has it understands all too well.
But Jackie, you ask, we already know what the definition is. What does it mean to BE bipolar?
Well okay, since you twisted my arm.
I realize I’m joking a bit throughout this blog, but the fact is, bipolar “disorder” is very serious. I’ve put a lot of thought into how I wanted to write this, and even now I question it. It’s hard to put into words, and explain to others, what you live through on a daily basis. Even worse is trying to explain it to others in a way they can understand and not think you’re over-exaggerating.
Being bipolar is not an easy task to handle. There are days when I wake up, and I’m in the best mood I’ve been in in days. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the air is clear and wonderful. My daughter is well behaved, my friends and I have deep conversations, and everything is all around perfect. Then there are days where everything goes to absolute hell, and I’m still manic.
You know sometimes you see people laughing at funerals? That’s what it’s like. When a bipolar person hits their high, manic state, it doesn’t matter what is going on around us, we simply cannot react the way a “normal” person should. Well, let me rephrase. I can only speak for myself, so I can’t react in ways a “normal” person is expected to. Everything can be crashing and burning around me, and I’m still giggling over a fart joke. It really is like turning into a five year old again. Everything’s funny, and I just want to prank people and so on. Everything feels like it’s moving so fast.
Then comes the crash. The crash is an interesting one. For me, it’s located some point after my everything-is-funny-haha-dead-people stage. The low swing hits, usually about as severely as a car crash, and suddenly…. It doesn’t matter how good everything is. I’m upset. I start crying for no reason. The jokes that my friends and I were making the day before suddenly hurt my feelings and make me want to cry. I feel like I’m trapped in a prison inside my own mind, and I want nothing more than to crawl out of my own skin and get as far away from myself as possible. I feel like an exposed nerve, and I’m frightened. I’m scared, and I’m alone. That’s what it feels like. I feel totally, and completely, alone no matter who I surround myself with. I want so badly to reach out to someone, and just be held. I want someone to say something to comfort me, but no one can find the right words. “What are the right words, Jackie?” Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know what the right words are until I hear them. Frustrating? Trying being in my head. Because just as suddenly as it comes on, it goes away. Now, this could take some time for it to go away, weeks or months even, but when it does go, it goes pretty quick.
My swings are typically unpredictable, so it’ll go one of two ways. One will be anger. Everything is personal, everything is out to get me. Everything is trying to hurt me, and damn it I’ll hurt it first. I hate everyone, and everything, and I just want it all to explode around me in a fiery blaze. I want to see destruction, I want to tear at the fabric of reality if it means I can rip this anger and hatred from my chest. All the while I feel as though I am drowning, in a lake of fire, and nothing I can do can stop it.
If I don’t go to anger, then I go to apathy. This is where I simply cannot feel anything. Now, those who know me know I can at times be very detached from my own emotions, sometimes without meaning to, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have an entire moodswing dedicated to just that. When I am in this state, I just don’t care. I can’t even begin to understand why someone would care about it in the first place. Nothing makes sense to me, I don’t understand why people are happy, or sad. I don’t understand these little things that bring joy to people’s lives. I’m cruel, the things I would normally put a filter on (i.e. “Oh you got a hair cut? It looks…..nice….”), I let out in a cruel and harsh fashion (i.e. “Did you get in a fight with a lawnmower? That hairstyle is horrible. And while we’re at it, you’re not as pretty as you think you are.”)
When all of this is happening, I feel like a different person has taken control of my body. Someone will make a joke during one of the swings and I’m fine with it. Make the same joke during a different swing, and I’ll react differently. My points of view change, depending on my mood. Everything.
The other aspect that no one tells you is what happens during the swings that also cannot be predicted. According to the NIMH:
Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
Being easily distracted
Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
Being overly restless
Sleeping little or not being tired
Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors
Just to name a few for you. The worst one for me is having unrealistic beliefs in my own abilities. I hold myself to a higher standard than everyone else around me. If someone else makes a mistake, it’s okay. But if I mess up, it’s the end of my own little world. Everyone is going to hate me or laugh at me, everyone’s going to mock me. How could I be so stupid for not doing this correctly, or how the hell did I not see that the first time? I hate making mistakes. “Normal” people brush off mistakes in a few hours, maybe a few days. I hold on to, and remember them, for years. They cripple me with fear sometimes to the point that I will just freeze. Everything freezes and shuts down. All because I made a mistake. Sometimes when I make mistakes, I want to just sit down and sob. Or I get angry. Or…you get the point.
Jackie, that sounds awful, you might say. Why don’t you go get medicated for it?
That’s a good question. One I debated answering for quite some time.
When I was younger I was on medication. And jeeeeeez I hated it. Remember that apathetic stage I was just telling you about? Mix in some paranoia and you have me on medication. I felt like a zombie, floating from one place to the next. I cut so I could feel something. Sometimes it was comforting. The more apathetic I got, the worse the cuts became. Soon I was cutting entire pieces of skin off with scissors. I knew if I kept going, I was going to die. So I tried to kill myself.
Then, suddenly, I was off the medication… and I felt better. I realized I never wanted to go back to that place, ever again. I never wanted my emotions to be dictated by some “magic pill”. I wanted to do this on my own. Yes, it is hard. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. But I do it.
How do you function in society, though? Warn everyone about your disorder?
No, I’ve perfected multiple persona’s. Does that mean you’re lying? No, not at all. Well, sort of I guess. It’s like putting on new clothes every day for me. I’ve got my “Professional Skin” (think business suit), my “Hey-I’m-The-Life-Of-The-Party!” skin, my “I’m here to comfort you” skin. And many others.
The honest answer is I want to give people what they want to see, rather than what is happening under the surface. My problems are frustrating and complex, and most of the time I cannot put them into words to make myself understand, let alone include anyone else on the ride. The other answer is… I don’t want to be crippled by my problems.
I don’t see being bipolar as a disorder. Being bipolar has opened my eyes, and made me see the world differently than “normal” people. Yes, there are many days that I absolutely hate it. Would I change myself? No. No, I really wouldn’t.
What I would change is the way society sees people like me. Thanks to the media spreading fear and lies (surprise, surprise), and people lying to get out of severe punishments, society is afraid of people with mental illnesses. We often fear what we don’t understand, and the fact is the definitions for most mental problems are constantly changing and evolving. It’s taboo to speak of. Getting mental help is difficult, and often expensive, and unless deemed “necessary”, most insurance companies won’t cover certain things. Being bipolar has made me a little afraid to talk about my “disorder” to others, because I don’t want any of them to think I’m going to go off the deep end and hurt my daughter, or shoot up a school, or yada yada.
No, listen here people. When I get into the absolute worst of the worst lows, where I am picking up razorblades or picking up pills, and wondering how much time I have to kill myself before I get caught, the only person I am trying to hurt/kill is ME. Let me repeat that. ME. Not my child, not my parents, not my friends, etc. ME. If a person does commit some horrible act, they might be bipolar, but there is something else mixed in with that. That’s right, people, these problems can be mix and match too!
The simple fact is we as a society need to stop being so afraid of it, and maybe, just maybe, encourage people to seek help.
I am not saying people shouldn’t take medication. I’m not saying you should. I can only speak for myself in these circumstances, or what my circle have friends have told me. These “disorders” are different for each and every one of us. That’s how it’s always been, and always will be.
As I stated earlier, it is incredibly difficult for me to truly put into words what it is I experience every day. But I hope this helps shed even just a little bit of insight into what it is like inside my brain.