I had an amazing day yesterday with one of my best friends baking and hanging out and having a lovely dinner with her, her friend, and my husband. I even stayed at a steady 6 on a mood scale of 1-10, which is pretty damn amazing when compared to the last few months.
Before dinner we all sat outside smoking cigarettes, well all but my husband, he doesn’t smoke. While we were talking, something came to my mind that I needed to tell my friend topbottombitch about my bi-polar disorder. So I just blurted out in front of this new friend that I had bi-polar. I NEVER do that. He handled it very well, and was a perfect gentleman. However, you could tell he was still shocked and a bit confused.
This experience got me thinking about other people’s reaction to when I told them I have bi-polar disorder. So I thought it might be beneficial to share what it’s been like for me sharing it with different people and give my personal experience about what bi-polar is. Please keep in mind that the below was written in less than an hour during a manic episode several months ago, so it’s a bit abrasive, But, I did not want to change it because it makes so many good points.
The hardest part about having Bi-polar disorder is the stigma that surrounds it. If you mention it, people automatically assume you’re crazy and are incapable of real thought. So to dispel those thoughts I tend to approach it with my normal bluntness and callus sense of humor. After I explain the technical definition of the dis-order and feel the person has an understanding I’ll get a little more personal. I’ll casually mention “the second time I tried to kill myself…” or “when I was in the Mental Hospital, I learned…” I ‘ll feel so good about being open and honest I’ll loose eye contact and just keep talking. Then I’ll look up and see the looks of horror or fear or pity, and it hits me again. To me, this is normal. This is how it’s been almost as long as I can remember. But to them, this is horrific. “Normal People” simply don’t have the ability to understand.
Of course, sometimes you do get the people who think they get it. Normally, the first thing out of these people’s mouth is “Oh, I totally get how you feel! I get depressed too, it’s just part of life. You just have to be positive” or “I’m on an anti-depressant so I totally get it!” These lines irritate me more than any words can explain. I literally want to shoot people in the foot every time I hear it! I know they are simply trying to empathize, relate, and give advice. But it comes across as rude and condescending. Almost as if they are trying to simply dismiss the hell I go through on a daily basis.
So since shooting people is illegal and I can’t ever own a gun anyway because I’m legally mentally handicapped, I determine whether or not the person in front of me really wants to know the truth of what I go through. Some people just don’t want to know. It makes them feel uncomfortable and powerless. But I have had the opportunity to truly explain what happens to the best of my ability. I try to be as pointed and clear as my racing thoughts will allow.
I explain how the changes in moods are so drastic it’s like going from summer to winter with no chance for spring. I explain how my mind can convince me that the people who love me, hate me or that I hate the people I actually love or that my loved ones are just pretending to care so they can control and trap me. I explain how I can become paranoid, even when medicated, and think everyone hates me and I can trust no one. Then there come those moments when my brain convinces me that all I want, more than anything, is to die. Or maybe not even die, just cease to exist. Because existing is just to painful, and there’s no real point anyway.
The desiring death part is always the hardest to explain. A rational, normal person thinks of suicide as a stupid, drastic solution to a fixable problem, as well they should. But I’ve always found the suicidal urges to be the simplest. Wake up, make my coffee, smoke a cigarette, pick out an outfit, think maybe today I’ll kill myself, maybe not, chipotle would be nice for dinner. Just the endless loop of “just maybe”. This is the part that always scares people shitless, and inevitably ends the conversation. Personally, the only people who know about this part for me are my husband and my doctors.
Then there’s the part that everyone is fascinated to hear about. The mania. People think it’s cool. That is until I tell them about how you don’t sleep for days, sometimes weeks, and nothing feels real. It’s like you’re on a trip. Things are happening quickly, you accomplish so much, you have more energy than you ever dreamed possible, you’re the life of the party. But you can never fulfill yourself. You constantly yearn for more excitement, more risk, you want to spend more money then you have, you want to walk in the most dangerous part of town in the middle of the night drunk as hell just so you can feel, you want to start fights in clubs just to see if the bouncer truly can throw you out. Because when you’re manic you truly feel that nothing and no one can hold you down. Then there are the blind rages that accompany mania. If anyone so much as looks at me funny I’ve been known to physically attack or verbally beat them up to the point were they retreat in tears. And the whole time I don’t feel a thing. When I come off of mania, everything comes back to me, all at once. It’s overwhelming and sends my entire being plummeting into a hole so deep it’s unexplainable.
But at the end of explaining it all, I try to point out that I’m otherwise normal. That when properly medicated, I’m mostly like others. Yes, I still need to work harder at many things than others. I’ll never be able to focus clearly on anything. But I still laugh at my dogs silly antics. I still banter with my husband and friends. I’m still human.
And really all that matters is explaining that even though I’m sick, my humanity hasn’t been stripped away. I’m not any less of a wife, daughter, or friend. Sure, my illness effects almost every moment of my day. But it’s all how you deal with it. I have chosen to work with the cards I’ve been dealt and live my life to the fullest. Yes, this illness often knocks me on my ass. But in the end it has given me the opportunity to grow into a stronger woman than I could ever have imagined. Every day is a battle, but it’s a battle worth fighting.