Explaining the Physical Scars of a Mixed Bipolar Episode
If you could see me right now you might assume I got drunk and ended up in a fight. Or perhaps I am a victim of domestic violence. I suppose you might consider that I’m extremely clumsy. It might not occur to you I was lost in a mixed episode of bipolar disorder and that’s how I landed in the emergency room. I have a very purple and very puffy black eye and stitches to go with it. I think I look hideous. I’m full of shame. I am reminded of what “out of control” feels like each time I step in front of the mirror.
It’s been going on for a week and gaining intensity as the days passed. The roller coaster is actually off its tracks.
A disconnection from my body and mind was starting to take form and I didn’t quite know it. Only when my coworker looked me dead in the eye and asked if the fanatic could please come back did I start to see. But, it didn’t really stick. My thoughts were far too fast and frenzied for his statement to truly matter. I had things to accomplish. Work to be done. I then became the most driven worker my agency has seen in the span of two hours. I was solving problems in the hands of executives. Having arrived at 7:15, my boss sent me home at 5.
What was unseen that day was my tremendous trips to the bathroom hiding a rush of tears, or on the verge of a panic attack. Have you ever tried to muffle yourself during a panic attack? It’s just as distressing as what’s actually happening. After my brief intermittent meltdown I would return to my office with a joke or thick sarcasm to prove I was OK. On my way home, I was determined my day was not done. I now had errands to run.
I made it to the parking lot. Turned off the car. Gathered my purse. An implosion occurred. I burst into sobs best saved for the shower. All the days emotions hit me and I felt so out of control. If I let go of the steering wheel I might fly about the car. I managed to pick up my phone, which I never do. I was terrified. I called three people. Three! No one answered. I sank. I didn’t know what to do. My husband finally called and he talked me home. I made the decision I was nowhere fit for work the next day. I left a long rambling message for my boss.
Next morning, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. I went to my fitness bootcamp at 5 a.m. I came home and tried to go back to sleep and rest. I was far too antsy. Far too uncomfortable. Far too manic. I decided to go trail running. I had a plan to slow myself down and not focus on beating my usual five mile loop time. It started out that way, but quickly got out of control. I have not told anyone this next part. As I was descending down a hill and gaining momentum, I started jumping off things. I ran up the side of the hill, off the trail, to jump across the trail. At some point I heard the sound played when Wonder Woman began to run or do something heroic. I came back to the trail and took off as fast as I could, making my stride as if I was flying. I could feel the wind on my face like I was a bullet train. I was quick, nimble, powerful. All in my mind. Meanwhile my body literally could not keep up. Down I went. Hard. Very hard. Hit my head. Turns out it was my eye lid. Blood was dripping as I lay across the trail. Confused. Not like dazed, but rather questioning how I could have been stopped.
I picked myself up. No concept of how hurt I might be. I had to walk back up the hill I just flew down. I pulled a lady aside and showed her my head. I asked her if I should go to the ER. She said, “Yes, definitely.” I walked another half mile to my car not entirely sure what happened.
I was restless and pacing at the ER. Scared. Alone. Cried into my hands several times. Not because I was hurt physically. Just unsure how I can continue to live like this. Or if I even want to. They patched me up “good as new” and sent me home. Instead of going home, I went to coffee with my dear friend. I cried some more. I don’t remember much of our talk other than I let some things out. Kept some things in.
Tomorrow I go to work with a helluva shiner on my right eye. You see typically when I have bipolar symptoms I simply disappear for a few days. I return when I am ready. But the scars from those episodes are on the inside. This time, I am returning with scars on the outside. I am worried about gossip, rumors… whatever else spreads like wildfire at an office. Very few people know I’m bipolar. I almost feel like I am faced with being open or face ugliness of office culture. I’m ready for neither, but I also don’t know which is worse.
I plan to wear a hat. I plan to keep my head down. I plan to keep to myself. As I write these words I am sad. Bipolar is a part of me like it or not. Just as I will always be a recovering alcoholic. Maybe it’s time to set myself free from my own self stigma. I am still the same hard worker whether I’m black, blue or bipolar. It may no longer be a heroic effort, but it’s always an honest one.