There are two of me. Each morning, I don’t know who I’ll be. No, we are not twins — in fact we’re completely different. It might not make sense to most people but I like being both. I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; since I was very young it’s the two of me I’ve remembered. These feelings are familiar, and in a way comfortable.
When I’m depressed I go all in, I lie on the couch or on the bathroom floor, the tub if I’m really deep in the darkness. I wonder how many people like me have a go-to spot for when the world is just too much. It hurts; I wallow in my pain and sadness, sometimes it feels like my body is physically at its end. But these feelings are familiar to me, like an old friend who sometimes visits to remind you that you’re different.
When I’m up, I glide. Rapid thoughts and talking, of course, and impulsive behavior. I’m there, seeing a distorted world, making plans that won’t work. Sleep? Who needs it? Not me, I’m too busy making bad choices. Once again, there’s that familiar comfort. I feel energized and happy, despite knowing inside I’m spinning completely out of control and knowing how badly I want to stop.
The two of me have been walking hand in hand for so long it became my reality, my normal. What felt strange or unusual was just being OK, when the two of me disappeared and I was left with my true self. I couldn’t stand being OK; it was like standing still when I felt I should be lying down or skipping around in circles. Yes, inside I know rationally that being OK was what I needed and what I wanted. I wanted to want it so bad, at times just the thought of getting to the OK stage seemed impossible, like a glass of water you can’t quite reach when you’re dying of thirst. Medication has saved my life; having support and therapists and learning self-care have helped me. Without them, I know I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have in life because of the choices I would make at my extremes. I had to learn to be OK — I had to make that my familiar.
I know there are many out there who understand exactly how it is to live this way. While I have an extreme case, there are those who struggle even more than me and I hope and pray they get to the OK state I have found. I’m actually happy — not fake or pretend happy, but healthy and real happy. I still have my cycles. I will never truly walk as one person because I live with this disorder. Sometimes there are weird moments when I feel strange and miss my extremes, which I have a hard time understanding, but it’s like when you move out of a crappy apartment into a house. The house is so great but just once every so often you miss that little apartment despite its poor condition. I get through those moments, sometimes barely, but I hold on as tight as I can to being OK, to being my whole self.
I know I’m lucky to have gotten the help I did when I needed it, to have loved ones with the resources to guide me. I wasn’t swept under the rug or shamed. However, just because there is someone who is struggling more than you, it doesn’t mean your struggling isn’t real or that it doesn’t count. Your feelings are valid, you are not broken and worthless, you are not beyond help, you are not damned because of the choices you made when you were two people.
Bipolar disorder is just that — a disorder, a brain and body illness. I still struggle — I still am not always sure who I’m going to be when I wake up, if it’s going to be a depressed day or a super-charged day of impulsiveness, or if it will be a day where I’m finally OK. I’ve learned I’m not alone. That took me quite a while to figure out, so I hope sharing my story will help someone in any small or maybe a big way. It hasn’t been easy and it won’t always be easy but I’m finally OK, and I know that while that might seem like an impossible goal, it is attainable.
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