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What My Bipolar Disorder Feels Like

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The world I live in is grey. It’s filled with grey buildings and streets. The water is grey, the clouds are too, and the people no longer wear the smiles that were there before. There is instead deep anguish, anxiety, depression, sleepless nights spent in a lackluster life. Or maybe that’s just what I see.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Sometimes I see the world in a golden haze. The laughter so heartfelt, I can practically see glitter falling from the moments. The memories fade like an old reel video: just the black and white of stark reality. Those moments are contagious, leading one to another until all of a sudden the movie stops, and I rewind it to have the same conversations, the same memories playing in my head for days at a time. I don’t sleep, and honestly I don’t miss it. I continue to watch, the video speeds up, my consciousness with it, rushing through my life through the rear-view mirror.

The thing is, I know I’m watching it but not living in it. I notice a scratch in the picture, like a reminder that I’m telling a lie. I make lists, plan to fix it. I go buy the supplies and realize I’ve bought only half my list and an entire collection of things I’ll never use. So I go back out, collecting more trinkets and a couple more items from my list until I’ve spent most of my hard earned money on useless objects. I begin to agonize over the money I lost. The stress and anxiety eat at me until I cannot watch the mended tape of my life. So I try to make a new video.

That one starts out promising, but it’s exactly like the first — a lie, and I watch my attempts. I can take a moment from the stress of living life and recall with perfect clarity times when my life was simple and made sense.

Until I can’t.

One day I wake up slowly, one night I can’t fall asleep. But not like before. This time I’m so tired I lie in bed for hours, praying for sleep. The sun comes up, but it’s accusing me of being in bed for days. I start to listen to the same sad songs about life being a lie, about the future that never comes. I’ve been making up the entire experience. There was never a film or a projector. I wasn’t living in the movies of my life, I was living in the recesses of my own mind, where there is no one but me, no matter how many people it seemed like there were.

So I tell someone.

They start out saying they will be there for me, and I’ve heard it before. But I hope the feeling in the pit of my stomach is wrong. I tell them I’m no longer sure where reality begins and my imagination ends. And for a while, they hold me protectively, as though I might shatter at the slightest change. I begin to feel at ease and I know the past is the past and I picked the wrong person to trust in last time. This time will be different.

Until it isn’t.

The person who said they’d always be there for me lied in the way that hurts me most. And that lie causes me to withdraw into my  mind again. I try to protect myself with walls I had torn down. Eventually the relationship withers and dies, and I blame myself. If only I didn’t need so much help. If only I weren’t so unlovable.

Then comes the darkness.

As I begin to accept I mean nothing, that my life is more trouble to live than others can accept, I do the one thing I can to protect what little self I have left: I run back into my mind, into the world I created. I feel at home in the bright blue skies, the crystal-like oceans and the deep green of the trees. The parts of my mind I had shunned come back out to greet me, as though they knew I wasn’t trying to hurt them, I was trying to live in the grey world. The more I talk to these parts, I realize the only person who could possibly love me is myself, these little parts of my mind that welcome me without judgment each time I return.

The world I live in is beautiful. It’s filled with beautiful scenes of color-filled things, and there are people there who love me. The sky is blue, the water is too and there are songs which fill my heart to the brim with life and love and awe. There is no hatred, only the slightest whisper of the pain I vaguely remember.

But I feel guilty.

After all, I did run out on them, push them away and hurt their feelings, my feelings. These little parts of me that have always been with me, whispering in my ear that I can succeed, that I can be loved. These parts that whispered louder than those who wanted to tear me down. But I give into the solemn blackness that calls to me ever so softly. I am worthless. I am nothing. I could never fit in, everyone will lie to me, hurt me. And it’s all my fault. I start to slip down the spiral, deeper than before, into the deepest parts of the blackness inside me. So dark, I think I might never find the light again. Nor would I deserve the chance to.

And then I find a single speck of glitter.

I vaguely remember the parties in the sun, the laughter and wonder. What if I have it wrong? What if I just didn’t know what I do now? I could take this little piece of glitter and make a better me, a new and improved me. And all I have to do is fight for it. So I claw my way back into the sun, awaiting my day of recognition. And there I sit, filming the next reel, watching my life pass me by.

The world I live in is grey, but the other one is brightly colored. In the first there are people I cannot trust, but will always try to. In the second, there are fragments of myself I want everyone else to see, keeping me company as I repair the damage from each and every grey heartbreak. They wrap me in a cocoon, internalizing the good and the bad. But I can never seem to find the line that separates them. I never know which one I live in or when I will go back to one or the other. What I do know is each time I enter the world of color, it’s a little harder to leave, to find the speck of glitter. And each time I leave the world of grey, I want to come back less and less.

For me, there is only the pain of grey and the hope of color.

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

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

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: July 25, 2016
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