An old Scottish pastor, upon hearing I have Bipolar disorder, asked me what it felt like. I’d never really had anyone ask me what it “felt like.” I’m not sure there are words for it. But, pictured here is what it looks like. I have been stable with medication for a while. But, I painted these two examples of what bipolar is and what it feels like only yesterday. “But,” you may be thinking, “You just said you were stable.” Well, see that’s the whole thing about bipolar.
Bipolar means manic depression. Some folks may be more depressed – some more manic. And still more may be mixed-yep, depressed AND manic at the same time. And that’s where it gets complicated. That’s when there are no words to describe it because iit all becomes too much. Too many feelings racing through my head, too many things that irritate and agitate me- too much noise, too much frustration- just too much. Overwhelming sadness, overwhelming hyperactive behaviour- all at once. Organizing, cleaning, music, laughter, crying- all symptoms of mania.
Overwhelming, crippling sadness, the inability to get out of bed, the inability to care, the inability to move.The tears, the screaming, both in my head and out of my mouth.
A call to my doctor decreases a med here and maybe add a med there. An atypical anti psychotic, she says. “I don’t want to if i can get away from it,” I say.” It makes me feel flat, takes away my imagination, my ability to write, communicate and paint. My creativity gone- in one fell swoop. That is why folks diagnosed with bipolar don’t stay on the meds they are prescribed. Ridiculously expensive and highly effective as far as curbing the feelings, non-feelings, voices, weird behaviour and activity, they come with a bevy of side effects not the least of which is flat affect or no real feelings at all. More of a numbness. So, the plight of the mentally ill is basically too many feelings, thoughts and more or none.
I have a wonderful psychiatrist who has worked with me for long about 20 years or more now and my therapist is so in tune to the cycles in my mind. She can usually help me ward them off before they actually come to the surface. I waited too long to go see her this time. I’ll know better next time.
Mental illness is debilitating at best. I have tried to use words to describe what happens- what goes on- but it is difficult helping a non-mentally ill person sort it out. The triggers that set a mentally ill person off may be nothing to someone else. That is why it is so difficult to understand and so difficult to relate to. It is like folks say, ” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a disease.”
People are sometimes not nice to people like me. I don’t really have that problem since i’ve been stable. But, just let me cycle- let me go manic or depressed and then some people think “pulling myself up by my bootstraps ” should do the job. Righty-o. Please try to have patience, empathy and if nothing more than a modicum of understanding if you see someone on the streets talking to themselves, making gestures to no one in particular. If you think it is uncomfortable for you- imagine what it is for us.