The Best Way I Can Describe What It’s Like to Live With Bipolar Disorder


How do I explain what living with bipolar disorder feels like? I say, “It’s cyclical,” and you say, “So you have good days and bad.” Yes. Yes and no. I’ve tried to explain, searching for the right words, but I never quite hit the jackpot.

So let me try to explain in the best way I know how, as a writer.

Through metaphor.

I’d like to take you somewhere — an adventure if you will. No? Not an adventure. Maybe just a little walk. Yes, a nice stroll. Nothing too committal. Just a walk through a park, through the viridian sea of foliage, hearing the laughter of a child. Do you see that young couple? Kissing? Over there on the bench? I can feel the heat coming from their passion. My fingers tingle at the sensation. You and I walk along the cobblestones, hearing the gentle click of our shoes on the stone; glance at the cyclists as they ride by, chrome glinting in the watery sunlight.

It’s lovely. It’s calming. It feels… real. Normal. This is life, no? This is what life is about?

But it’s such a short moment. I need it to be longer, draw it out.

The clipped-ness of it overwhelms me. I smell the cinnamon scent of chestnuts being roasted and I grasp for that scent. Desperately, my senses drink it in and I can almost taste it… almost. It’s infuriating how much I need to taste it. Urgently. Do you feel it?

Do you smell the scent of the roses, the leaves, freshly mown grass, hear the cicadas in the summer afternoon, lazy, piercing? Doesn’t it throw you back to your childhood? Aren’t you young again? Why can’t you feel it? The morning dew burnt off by the sun as she streaks across the sky in all her naked glory. She really is tantalizing, isn’t she? I think I might catch her.

The energy is unbounded, exhilarating, profound. Don’t you see? Doesn’t it mean something to you? All of this glory we call Earth, we call home? The crusted bark of the trees, stories older than you or me. The children dodging their helicopter parents. Swoosh, zoom, duck. That one, over there, the young mother in the dress so lilac I can’t think straight, talking into her mobile phone as she gestures to her young offspring.

I need to chase it. I need to capture it. Capture its meaning.

It’s almost too much. It is too much. My eyes rapidly take it all in, the images, the scents, the sounds, all get processed in my higher cortices, the moment overwhelms me. Back and forth, focus, attention, process, storage. Repeat. Over and over and over. It rushes through me. Faster, faster, no wait it’s too fast too fast too fast! Stop, I can’t keep up, it’s too green, the children are too loud, the scent is nauseating! I can’t keep up with myself.

The rain falls.

The storm barrels in, the clouds, lethargic, monstrous, ugly, incapable of doing anything but raining the shit storm of the century. It’s horrible. It’s all horrible. Each drop squeezed out in anticipation of contact with my miserable skin. My flayed being. I can’t. It hurts too much. The rain torments me, the thunder laughs at me, the hairs on my arm stand straight at attention. Like little soldiers ready to march to their death.

Like the little white pills, lined up in a row. Little soldiers with their little mission to end the littleness of myself. Down the chute they go. One by one they go marching, marching, marching. Slicing away at the agony. Like raindrops, they go down.

It’s dark. All is dark. Not even dark — void of darkness. Void of anything. A black hole and I teeter on the event horizon. Can you reach for me? Do you see me here, grasping, my fingernails ripped off, bloody stubs clawing at something to keep me from plummeting? Please, please, please….

I can’t remember the color green anymore. I can’t remember the taste of food. I can’t remember the feeling of feeling. The only thing I hear is the gurgling sound of me getting sucked down the drain. Down the drain with the rain.

Do you see me? Can you see me?

No, maybe you can’t.

The rain stops… eventually. The yellow sun breaks through, anxious, filled with trepidation. Even she doesn’t want to expose what’s happened here. But I still see her, distant and foggy, behind the breaking clouds.

I can’t follow her though, I can’t follow her too far. Or she will be too bright. And I will fall again.

Do you see?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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