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I Live With Different Versions of Myself Due to Bipolar Disorder

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I have three versions of myself.

Two of them follow me around, chained to my ankles. I drag one and then the other. I can’t release them.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

One version is shadows, a billowy wisp. Desiccated skin and scraggly hair. She cries agonizing moans and constantly whispers torment in my ear. She is misery and likes to tell me how we’d be better off alone. Better off dead. But she is so weak that I’m sure one strong breeze will come along and blow her away. But she never really does go. She is resilient in her misery, that one. She is always there, chained to my ankle.

The other version of me is maddening chaos. She is vile and destructive and delights in tearing my life apart. She torments me with visions of the most brilliant parts of myself, all bathed in glory, and then entices me to say, “Yes, yes, yes,” until I can’t say yes any longer. She laughs and tells me I can do anything I want, then tries to chase me until I can’t run any more. She chases me until I stumble and fall.

I live with bipolar disorder and those are my two versions.

The third version — the one dragging the other two — is me. Step after step. Lift, drag, drop. Next.

But sometimes that motion becomes too exhausting, too cumbersome. I have to keep dragging them, these two other versions of me. I have no choice. I can’t release them, so I have to keep moving or one will take hold, and I will be the one dragged along. Lift, drag, drop.

I’ve learned to keep that rhythm in my life, to keep those two other versions of me behind me, while I do the dragging. I’ve learned how to try and rest while still moving, without letting them get ahead of me. I’ve learned routine. I’ve learned self-care. I’ve built my own army of tools, psychiatrists, doctors, psychotherapists. I’ve padded my support system with loved ones, family, friends, even strangers. I’ve added to my constant, ceaseless march with open dialogue, communication, acceptance. I have my own bunker for when the full blast detonates.

I’ve removed my own stigma. I refuse to feel shame. I refuse to feel guilt.

But simply because I refuse doesn’t mean it doesn’t sneak in — that shame or that guilt. And then one of those two versions of myself gets close enough and starts whispering in my ear, and I stumble. Just a little. And that one single stumble terrifies me.

I’ve been doing this for more years than I’ve been alive. And I’m tired.

But what if I don’t have to drag these weights behind me alone? What if I don’t have to constantly keep ahead of myself? What if I don’t have to constantly fight the two versions of myself that threaten to tear my life apart?

What if anyone fighting with bipolar disorder doesn’t have to fight alone? What if these some five hundred words I write help to break those chains — for me or for someone else?

The chains are the stigma. The burden is the silence. The struggle is unnecessary.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 2, 2016
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