The Mighty Logo

When Bipolar Disorder Is a Balancing Act

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I’m going to share something that is so counterintuitive that my credibility will probably be in question. I had a travel day for work today. It was only a little more than an hour away I had to drive to my appointment. It was a beautiful, crisp morning. By the time I had to get on the road, all the frost had disappeared in the glistening sun. My iPod was plugged in, and I was ready. My impending appointment wasn’t stressful. So my anxiety was rather low.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I live in northern California in what many people would probably define as a rural area. I was able to travel this distance without getting on the freeway. I took notice of the black, brown and Oreo colored cows standing on the hillside. I could see reflections in the standing pond water off to the side of the road. I felt the sunshine insulating my car window. Dare I say, I felt at peace.

I’ve been focusing on being grateful, forging a connection with a higher power and allowing myself to believe I belong in this world. Just about four weeks ago, I didn’t believe this and landed in the psychiatric hospital. Just about four weeks ago, I had a solid plan that I was ready and prepared to carry out. Yet, four long weeks later I’m back at work and enjoying this drive. Bipolar disorder has got nothin’ on me.

As I leisurely take in the view up ahead, I picture myself take my hands of the wheel and glide through the air. Arms out to the side like one might do on a bicycle, I think I want to feel this contentment forever. The only possible way that could happen is to veer into oblivion.

The urge to carry out this fantasy becomes overwhelming. My heart starts racing. My thoughts start racing. My vision blurry. Panic attack. I pull over as soon as I can to gather myself and my breathing. I always leave early. I’m sure you can understand why.

Soon, I turn on my signal, and I begin my road trip again. I practice what I will say when I arrive. I practice what they will say. I turn on some mellow music, sink into my seat and remind myself I’m OK.

After my appointment I meet a co-worker for lunch. I do not mention the earlier incident. I prepare for my return drive home. I reach out to my higher power and mumble a few words into the car. Again, some sort of comfort comes over me. I notice my surroundings. I take it slow and don’t feel rushed to get home.

It’s that feeling of peace surrounding me, enticing me, promising me what I perceive as freedom. If I died right now, then I could actually say I was at peace. Seconds later, I pulled in front of a semi-truck barreling down the road. He blared his horn as I narrowly made it through the intersection. I didn’t panic. I didn’t seem to care.

Holding on to a positive feeling can be challenging in this world. For my brain with bipolar disorder, it’s seemingly impossible. I shoot up, then careen down with all that lies in between. This was all in the span of six hours.

How could someone who thinks they feel “at peace,” such a coveted feeling, put herself in harm’s way at the same time? I don’t really know. It’s completely counterintuitive. I’ll tell ya, it’s the truth. It’s not hard to want to feel good, content and at peace. Yet, with bipolar disorder, everything is a balancing act.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 22, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home