So, I received my first rejection letter. It was a soul crushing experience. I tried desperately to put into words what I was feeling, only to crash and burn into a fit of tears.
I’m going to share the entire experience with you, because I want others to realize they aren’t alone. Also, I’m going to link in my favorite topic: bipolar disorder.
A few months back I was slapped with an idea for a story, and before I knew what was happening, my fingers were flying across the keyboard. Hours disappeared at a time, and the story was writing itself. I found the experience therapeutic, because I was able to release so many of the dark and negative thoughts rumbling around in my head that I’m afraid to admit out loud. I found myself sitting in the edge of my own chair, wondering what was going to happen next. There was no planning, no charting, just me and the keyboard. It was a scraping clean of the subconscious, with hopes of making room for bigger, better things. I was once more surprised with my own writing, a sensation I’ve been lacking for many years now, and realised I wanted it released to the world.
Until I actually pressed submit.
I spent the remainder of my evening trying desperately not to throw up on customers, checking my email repeatedly even though I knew nothing had changed since I’d checked it five minutes before. I kept saying over and over “There’s a stranger touching my things!” And I felt like I was being violated. It was the weirdest thing.
I kept telling myself I was going to be rejected, because I am the type of person who always thinks the worst until I’m pleasantly surprised by awesome. Once I was home from work, I laid down and kept saying “Prepare yourself. You’re going to be rejected.” I thought I could handle it.
I was wrong.
The email came while I was asleep, so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up. “Thank you for submitting your work. Unfortunately it isn’t what we’re looking for at this time.”
All at once, the world began to spin in reverse. Cracks and tears began to appear in the fabric of my reality. I was sitting there trying desperately not to cry, and failing miserably.
The remainder of the day was spent curled up in a ball crying, or sitting in the car crying. You’ll notice the common theme here is crying.
And all my wonderful friends and family tried their best to cheer me up with statistics. And I did appreciate it, I swear I did. Unfortunately I couldn’t rise to the occasion and thank anyone properly because I was too busy fighting my own demons to worry.
See, here’s another thing about being bipolar. It is a learning process every day. No, seriously. And that point makes sense to all the above I’ve said thus far. Scientists are still learning about it, and so too are the ones who have it. Every day we are faced with new challenges and potential triggers, and learning what to do and how to react.
And I learned insane amounts of worry and stress can bring on one hell of a down turn once it’s finally relieved. Suddenly I wasn’t just coming to terms with a rejection letter, I was coming to terms with everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life, and convincing myself I wasn’t a failure at life. Suddenly I was crying because my grandfather died almost a year ago. I was crying because I was a divorced, single mother. One of my dear friends, whom in my eyes should receive sainthood, received the brunt of my downturn. I kept telling her “Just let me have this moment, just let me fall apart. It’s not me, it’s the chemicals in my head, I’ll be okay soon.”
Finally she understood it wasn’t a “get back on the horse, champ” speech I was looking for, but someone to just listen to me while I spiraled out of control.
I learned that the right thing said at the wrong time can make me angry, even though I knew the intentions were in the right place. I waited until my brain was back to functioning order before I responded or “liked” anything. Now I feel much better, and though I do still have anxiety, I will eventually try again.
Which brings me to the next part of my post. I’m honestly thinking about switching my blog to mainly bipolar logs (read: personal therapy) since it seems to be what I talk about most. Which, can you really blame me? It is the topic I understand most, and understand the least.
But here recently I’ve been seeing quite a few articles pop up titled things like “45 things all bipolar people want you to know” and “five things Hollywood gets wrong about being bipolar”. I thought I would take this opportunity to share some nuggets of wisdom from my own experiences, and experiences I’ve gathered from the world around me.
1. Bipolar disorder is not black and white. One thing I hated when I was taking sociology and psychology was how badly everyone tried to fit everything in a neat little category, and liked to pretend there was no such thing as a grey area. That simply isn’t how real life works. Person A and Person B may have the same disorders, but that doesn’t mean they suffer the same symptoms. Person A may have strong anxiety issues, where Person B may have strong cases of sociopathy. Person C may have all of those, and Person D may suffer from something else entirely.
2. We’re often relieved to learn something we do is classified as a symptom. I am a bit of an impulse buyer. I spend way too much time on Amazon, and if there’s something I want, I get it. I always thought this was just a bad habit (memorizing my debit card number didn’t help either), until I had to start saving money for a trip. I was doing so well, until a swing hit me, and suddenly I NEEDED that burger, or NEEDED that top. Next thing I new, money I’d saved up for a month was gone, and I was left standing there going “Where the hell did my money go…?” I was actually relieved to learn impulse buying is actually a symptom (falling under the category of risky behavior). Good news for me, bad news for my bank account.
3. Most articles center around people who are medicated. I haven’t been medicated since I was 13, choosing instead to go it on my own. I’m not saying people who take medication are weak, or can’t do it in their own. Quite the contrary, medication is a scary thing and often the side effects are more terrifying than the disorder itself (see any commercial regarding bipolar or depression medicine, and the list of possible side effects takes up more than half the commercial). What I’m saying is medication and I had a disagreement and I decided I could do things on my own. But reading articles focusing entirely on people who are medicated can sometimes make those of us who aren’t feel as though we are doing something wrong. WHICH, by the way, we are not! I’m not using this as a platform against big-pharm, because I realize some cases legitimately need medication to function or survive. But I also believe firmly in behavioral therapy.
4. There is a right thing and a wrong thing to say. Problem is, we don’t know what it is either! This is one point I want to stress heavily, especially for anyone who is fortunate enough to be our friends, our family, and who is willing to sit and hold our hands. At least in my experience, I am often waiting to hear the right thing. And when people talk or try to help, I’m not okay until I hear it. The problem is, however, I don’t know what that is until I hear it. And it could all depend on what point I’m in in my cycle. A piece of advice given to me on one day may anger me, yet the same piece of advice given a day/week/month later may suddenly make prefect sense and lead to the lovely “Ah ha!” moment. We’re not trying to be ungrateful, or heartless. We’re not trying to say we don’t appreciate the intention. Sometimes it just hasn’t clicked yet.
5. We are passengers in our own heads. In some of my worst cycles, I’ve often explained that it feels like someone else has control of my body and mouth, and I’m just a passenger. I’m not justifying, or giving a way out of accepting responsibility. All I’m saying is sometimes there are so many chemicals moving and shifting around, we’re just as lost and surprised as you are.
6. Sometimes we don’t know what to do either. Think of it like getting drunk. You have your go-to drink, the one that makes you happy. You’re comfortable, you’re okay with it. You know how your body will react. Midway through the evening, however, you’re accidentally served a drink you’ve never had, and it’s strong. You react differently, you’re not sure you like it. Then you’re served a completely different drink. This one makes you nauseated, causes you to ache or feel sick, but you know it’ll pass soon. Another drink and you’re feeling very confident, a feeling you can live with. Before the night is over, you’re slipped drugs and you lose all control. The combination of strange drinks plus drugs, becomes deadly. That’s what it’s like being bipolar. A chemical alters what we are feeling, and it doesn’t take much to trigger a reaction in many cases. Depending on the feeling, we can sometimes be left feeling quite vulnerable.
7. We are NOT CRAZY.
Sometimes our moods are chaotic, and in some cases people have lashed out at others in anger. But that doesn’t mean we are psychotic. The society we live in has placed all mental disorders into the category of crazy, which is detrimental (hahahaha) to the patient, the patient’s families, etc. Many of us already feel like we are broken, like we are losing our minds, we don’t need to be categorized in the same box as Charles Manson.
8. We do love, some of us just do it differently. One thing I struggled with, and still struggle with, is experiencing and showing love. Sometimes I need to be my own person, rather than so-and-so’s daughter, so-and-so’s mother, so-and-so’s girlfriend, etc. Other times I love so entirely it becomes physically painful. Manic love, in my opinion, is the gateway of obsession. Then there are days where I can’t love, because I’m too busy in my own head to worry about anyone around me. It’s hard to explain, but… One thing I’ve always wanted to say and explain to family, my friends, loved ones new and old…. My feelings are, and were, real, just some days are harder than others.
I’m sure I had many other points to make, but I can’t seem to think of them. This will be a case of I’ll remember as soon as I click publish. Ah well. If you have any thoughts, or anything you’ve just always wanted your friends/family/loved ones to know, feel free to add it in a comment below.