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When a Disappointment Leaves You Feeling Broken With Bipolar Disorder

My brain “broke” a number of years back. Colloquially, it was what’s known as a “nervous breakdown.” In terms of bipolar disorder, it was a “major depressive episode.” Whatever you call it, it meant for a couple of years, I was immobilized, irrational and unresponsive. Unable to work, to take care of myself, to enjoy anything. I had it all — the tears, the fears, the despair, the loneliness. You name a symptom and I had it.

Gradually, with psychotherapy and psychotropics, I got better. In fact, I’ve been so much better I felt my disorder was in remission. I wrote about that.

My strength, my renewed sense of self, my ability to cope — these things were so strong not even a tornado shook them. A literal tornado — one that ripped the roof of the house while I was in the second-floor bedroom. I went into a taking-care-of-business mode, finding us a place to stay those first few nights, then diving into the morass of insurance, money, salvage, bureaucracy, government agencies, phone trees. Things as complicated as moving into a rental house and as mundane as doing the laundry. There were times when I was exhausted, when I’d had all I could handle for that day or that week, but after a night’s or a weekend’s rest, I pulled myself back together and dug back in.

This week, however, I have broken again. I sustained a psychological blow that threw me so off-balance I can’t cope. I am back to immobility, depression, floods of tears, despair, misery. It was unexpected.  And it happened during the holiday week, a few days before Christmas.

My publisher closed its doors just when my second book was on the point of completion. My first book brought me a sense of pride and fulfillment, though it was hardly a best seller. I signed copies for my friends and family. I did a reading at a bookstore. I had t-shirts printed for me and my husband.

Those t-shirts are now gone, victims of the aforementioned tornado. And I have no copies of the book left, not even the copy I inscribed to my husband. It is like the book never existed. The second may never exist either. I am bereft.

I know it was a mistake to put so much of my pride, my self-esteem, my psychological well-being into a thing, something outside myself. But I thought the book was a part of me that would live on. That it might help other people who struggle with bipolar disorder, and maybe even their friends and families. And the second book would be even better, going more deeply into my experiences and bipolar out in the world — both an inside and outside look at the subject. “Bipolar Us,” instead of just “Bipolar Me.”

I don’t how this story ends. At the moment, it feels like it has already ended. What do I have left but some electronic files and a half-finished cover? The remembrance that once I wrote a book — two books, in fact? At the moment, I am not strong enough to look for another publisher and have no desire to go the self-publishing route. That would feel like another failure, at least for me.

I am crying while I’m writing this. I have been crying a lot over the holidays and staying in bed a lot, too. I made a brief post on Facebook so my friends would know what was happening, but now I have largely retreated. I’ve thrown away at least three blog posts I’ve started. I’m more than a little surprised I have managed to make it so far with this one. It’s stream of consciousness and not likely to get the usual editing before I post it, but I honestly thought I’d have nothing.

I know this is not my failure. I know this is not my fault. But that’s how it feels, anyway.

Getty image by andreonegin