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Searching for Calm in the Storm of Bipolar Disorder

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I come back to this place of safety to spill my words into the abyss. Forever and always the same. Depression…yes. A touch of mania? Why not. I am so tired of this intricate dance. Don’t step that toe out of line, stumble, trip… hang onto that tightrope, your life hangs in the balance.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I am so lucky. I have a good support system in place. Professionals, friends, family. I am loved by many. I am loved. I know this. I am grateful. I repeat these words over and over again. “I am loved. I am OK. This is enough. I am grateful.”

We talk. Speak in gentle waves. Don’t rock the boat. “This will not last forever. There will be calm. The storm doesn’t go on and on, eventually there are clear skies at the other end.” And if you are talking about episodes, then yes, you are correct. They don’t last forever; instead they are waves which ebb and flow, waxing and waning like the bright moon which fills the sky and is a beacon of light even on the darkest nights. They pass, if you can just ride each wave as it buffets you, trying desperately not to drown.

And this is what I hold onto. There will be peace. It will come, in time. The waves will subside, and leave behind… calm.

Except. Except it does not. Because after one episode, there is another to quickly fill it’s place. This will always be the case. This is a lifelong battle, this battle for sanity. How long can you hold onto a tiny vessel as it falls apart at the seams and leaves you battered and bruised in the midst of a hurricane? I am tired.

It comes to me even in my sleep, this metaphor. I dream of drowning. It is not terrifying as one would expect. I do not wake, tangled in sheets and blankets, sweaty from thrashing to reach the surface. Instead, I watch the waves close over my head, look up through the blue green haze and feel the air leave my lungs. The pressure in my chest is intense, and the water floods my mouth as I instinctively search for air. I do not fight. I am tired. And so I close my eyes against the haze, the pain and everything goes black.

I am tired. I dream of drowning, and for a moment, that moment between sleep and wake, there is simply nothing. No hurt, no pain, no exhaustion. Just a sweet nothing.

Bipolar disorder can consume you, if you let it. I have been teetering on that precipice where the struggle to continue feels so overwhelmingly impossible. But the truth is, in the darkness, if you can’t see even a speck of light, maybe someone else can. Maybe they can hold onto the hope for you, when yours has vanished. I am loved. I am grateful. I am enough. I matter. Bipolar disorder, depression, it tells you lies, but these are the real truths; my truths. I am enough. I matter. I am loved. I am grateful. There will be peace, and calm, in time; a shelter from the storm that rages within.

Follow this journey on Fighting the Tide’s Blog.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 24, 2017
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