Why I Can't Ignore Bipolar Disorder Is Part of My Identity
I never talk about it. Never really acknowledged it until recently. Maybe I was just in denial or maybe I truly didn’t see the severity of it, but to be honest I’m waving the white flag.
Time to realize I’m not “normal.” Time to see I need to make some changes before this illness takes over and destroys everything good I have ever built. It’s time I came to terms with who I am.
I am bipolar and I’m sure you hear the word thrown out quite a bit, I know I have. But does anyone truly know what it’s like to be bipolar? Probably not. There is such a stigma behind mental illness we do not discuss it. A “behind the scenes” disability is what I call it. No one knows you’re struggling but you. For the most part, you can’t even admit you’re struggling with it until the damage is done and all you’re left with is the aftermath, the apologies and the guilt of what you’ve done. How can anyone even begin to understand it wasn’t you. I mean it was, but not truly. You wouldn’t say or do those things, would you?
It’s an exhausting existence to say the least, but it’s also amazing. When I’m manic, every breath of air is new, sweet and crisp. Every song speaks to my soul as if made just for me and for this moment alone. Life is great. Life is better than great! I can do anything, be anyone and the constant surge of energy and creativity is as bad as a drug. It lies to you, it causes you to make unrealistic goals and not see the real picture. You are essentially painting a more beautiful and brighter picture over an original.
In 2016, I was manic for the better part of a year. I believed in my mania. An endless, constant high of adrenaline, ideas, lists, goals and selfishness. The mornings filled with the taste of Red Bull and cigarettes, the sound of music and laughter and days filled with ideas coming from every part of my mind. So fast I couldn’t even make them out anymore. I was fast — too fast — 2016 was a blur. The nights were filled with more music, louder and constant. The taste of red bull with cigarettes remained, but with an added ingredient: vodka.
Partying and self-medicating are a horrible alternative to the disorder but it’s also a temporary remedy that consoles, if only for the moment. Drinking fuels my mania and mania takes over logic. Suddenly my values, ideas and beliefs are no longer important and are negotiable. I awaken the next morning and I’ve hit my low. I’m filled with regret, distaste and embarrassment. No one makes me feel this way though, only I can do that. I allowed it and even pushed it because for the moment I was invincible.
How can I be so many people? A successful accountant, dedicated “workaholic,” loving wife and mother, best friend and daughter. I am those things but I’m also very much bipolar and ignoring this fact will only make it all worse. For myself and those I love, it is imperative I seek help immediately. It’s time to understand who I truly am behind all the titles and labels. It’s time to see my true painting. It may not be as beautiful, wild and exotic as I would like it to be. It may hurt me to face the reality of it all. The things I’ve said to the ones I love, the way I have acted and lashed out, the constant drunken and uncontrolled nights, but most importantly I need to learn to forgive myself. The regret when I come off a manic high is the worst and all of a sudden I am at an all time low.
The sounds are no longer sweet and soft. Food no longer tastes as delectable as I once thought it did. The drinking isn’t for fun anymore, but more to drown out my sorrows. The depression, regret, guilt and sadness become overwhelming and the only feeling you feel is exhaustion. The text messages and phone calls are minimal and the only outside experience I share is when I’m forced to work or face my family. They don’t understand and they take it personally, they all do.
“Why are you sad?”
“Are you OK?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
I can’t say how I feel, not again. It feels like I’m looking for attention or I feel like they’re just going to be annoyed by the same roller coaster I have been on for years. Only now I’m getting worse because no one told me it gets worse with age, with stress, with alcohol. So I say I’m fine and put on a fake smile hoping they will stop asking because deep down it’s irritating me. I’m becoming slowly irritable and everything everyone does annoys me. But it’s not OK to express annoyance. So I continue to hold in all the anger and sadness and irritability, until I snap at the wrong person and say the wrong things I can’t take back no matter what I do. I don’t care because they deserved it, right? It felt good letting it out. Then I see what I did and how the relationship or friendship has been affected by my words and actions and I start to see it’s not right. I’m not OK. Then hits the regrets again and sadness. It’s all downhill until it isn’t anymore.
Until life starts to slowly pace up a bit and I slowly start to feel OK again. I know it’s temporary but for the moment it’s great to not be in a super sad depression and it feels great to not be racing through life like it’s a race. For this moment, I come to terms with who I am and it’s bipolar.
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