Men Are Always Interested When I Tell Them I’m Bi!
But they soon change their minds when they realise I mean bi-polar!
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder about 14 years ago and I must admit, it was a relief to know there was something wrong with me, something tangible I could label, a way to understand the inner turmoil; it felt good to know other people were like me too, it felt good to know there was a reason (chemical imbalance I was told). Before the diagnosis, I just thought I was fucking crazy and was too scared to tell people the real truth, the ups and downs and sometimes the daily mood swings which totally controlled me. I hid it all out of fear. Fear that people would not understand. I knew something from quite a young age; I knew I was different in some way.
After the diagnosis, I was on medications (too numerous to mention) for eight years (2008-2016); they helped a little at first, but in the end I realised they made it worse because I couldn’t feel the good times anymore. I missed the mania (before the losing control stage), and now that I am med free (for about three years now), I can feel again and love the manic moments. Yes I must admit the depressions are bad and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, but to experience this joy, this total and utter elation about being alive, I don’t want to miss this for the world. This is what makes me me, and what makes me realise life is fucking amazing—often ‘normal’ people don’t see that—actually most of the time they don’t see it. They fucking whinge on about shit (don’t worry about the small stuff is my moto) and don’t realise life is worth living with all your might. Life is short and we have to make the most of every moment. I am so happy right now, so excited about being alive, so excited about the possibilities ahead of me, so confident that I will make a difference in the world and will be significant in some way. I know it wont last long but this short-lived feeling is just out of this world—everything is amazing. I feel connected and have a purpose—I am here for a reason and know I am different, but different in a good way. I am pretty bloody special actually.
When I hid my illness, I also hid those feelings; actually I not only hid them, I denied them the right to surface—too afraid to follow the dream only to crash and look like a fool or feel let down and disappointed again. Just not willing to buy into the happy ever after because it wouldn’t last long—it was not forever for me.
I actually feel lucky that I have Bipolar Disorder—why you may ask? Basically, I have friends and family that are depressed, clinically depressed and have been that way for years; some are chemical, some are trauma, but either way they have not felt happy for years. Even years of medication, therapy and treatments have not helped. I feel lucky because the depression for me is only short-lived. At times it would hang around for weeks, sometimes months and maybe possibly years at some stage in my life, but I am lucky because I know I will always come up again. That is what has kept me alive. For a while there I just couldn’t cope with the ups and downs, I truly thought I would rather be dead than ride on this rollercoaster day in and day out, not knowing who was the real me and not being able to control my moods. Now I suffer the bad and look forward to the good and aim for the middle road—it's a balancing act.
The trick is not to let either of those swings control the situation. I remain in control, I have to, no one else will. It took a long time to learn that. Yes medication can help, but it is not a cure. Yes therapists/ counsellors can help, but only you can truly help yourself. I know the triggers, I know the signs, I know what I need to do to keep myself safe—even in the darkest days when all I want to do is kill myself, I know how to deal with that shit now. I totally am not saying it isn’t horrible, but the pattern of my life reminds me it won’t always be like this. And I always know that somewhere around the corner the sun will shine again and my world will become a happy little bubble. I like living in my little happy bubble, it sure beats the deep black pit of despair.
I have got so manic in the past that I am not in touch with reality, and before I knew the disease, before I knew how to control it, mania was a very very dangerous place to be. I am still wary, always wary that it could get out of control, but I have enough experience now that I really don’t allow it to. Once the high kicks in, I regulate. As soon as mania approaches, alcohol, drugs, bad food, late nights, overworking, spreading myself too thin and taking on too much are not an option. I turn on Ms Boring, and god do I hate her, but over the years I have grown to respect her wisdom and basically have her to thank for still being alive. I go to bed early, I eat healthy, I exercise, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke marijuana and don’t go out socialising or shopping or online to spend up on credit and get myself into debt. I act like a grandma and be boring—I struggled with that a lot when I was younger. Now I know it makes sense and I will thank myself in the future for making myself go to bed at 9 PM and be a good girl. I remember for many years feeling a loss that I couldn’t just party when I felt like that, but after dealing with the consequences and repercussions of my wild antics so many times, I now know better. I am 48 years old now and have been this way since about 12 years old (although not diagnosed until my early 30s), so I have had a lot to time to learn my triggers. One of my biggest is working too much—once work starts taking over my life (I love my work) then I know I need to take care of myself. Working long hours and taking on every project there is is not sensible, so I have to watch out for those warning signs. Again it is all about balance.
Getting back to mania—wow, fucking double wow. If ‘normal people’ don’t experience this, then I am so sad for them. To feel that you have the world in your hands and that you can do anything, the world is your oyster, it is something I am very grateful for. So when someone asks if Bipolar a blessing or a curse, I say a blessing. It has brought me to where I am today and it has been a rocky road. I have surfed waves so big and nearly drowned many times, but I am here and I am so grateful I am still here. I am so grateful I am me.
Strangely enough I am actually grateful I have Bipolar Disorder, I know some of you are gonna be pissed that I say that, but some of the most extraordinary and wonderful events in my life have happened because of who I am. Even being on death's door and the moment before taking my own life was something that other people have not experienced—it's corny but it makes you who you are, has made me stronger than most and able to help other people because I’ve been there. Mental illness is not all negative. I feel things that other people have never been close to feeling—at times I despair at the depths of my feelings but to have never felt that ever, that is even worse. I know how precious life is, I take joy in simple pleasures, I literally do stop and smell the roses and I wont allow my life to be a monotonous routine of the modern reality. When life affects me, I make changes. I leave my job, I leave my relationship, I change my situation because I can't do what I see others do and just settle, thinking something is better than nothing. No, I would rather be alone and happy than in a relationship and unhappy. I would rather earn half my annual salary in a job that I love than one that destroys my soul or goes against my values. Being mentally ill actually makes you brave. I am a warrior woman, I will fight to survive because I know the beauty in life. I still feel suicidal sometimes, I sometimes spend days and weeks feeling like I am dragging myself through thick mud but I wont allow that to stay long. I know the things that I love, I know that nature and trees and the sea will always help me, I know laughing is good, so I will watch a funny movie. I have an orgasm (alone if you have to) because I know it will make me feel good. I say positive affirmations, I visualize good things, I write, writing is my most powerful ally, I move, I sing, I meditate, I rest well, I exercise, I eat fresh, healthy and nutritious food and I move myself out of the fog but doing those things.
I take pleasure in the simplest things when I am manic. I see beauty that others don’t, I see possibilities that others can't, I have a positive outlook that probably annoys people as it is so naïve but believe me, I have experienced the other side, the desperate lonely deep depression that I honestly would never want anyone to experience. However, the pattern remains the same: I go down and I come back up—I just now need to remember that I can change that. People argue with me that it is not true, if I have Bipolar I should be on medication but NO, an absolute NO from me. Drugs helped initially but only because I thought they would heal me—they don’t heal you by the way, they just mask the feelings and your illness is still there, so please if you feel brave enough, try to take the journey without meds and learn everything there is to know about yourself and jump on for the ride.