I’m quite possibly the worst person to bring to any amusement park, because I refuse to step foot on a single thrill ride. Perpetually labeled “designated bag holder”, I much prefer to keep myself planted safely on the ground. For someone with Bipolar Disorder, you’d think I’d be used to being thrown around against my will, going up until I’m high enough to see and do anything, only to come crashing down the next second with no warning.
This roller coaster analogy is the only way I can think to describe the feeling of manic depression to those who don’t have this diagnosis. My parents have always joked that there were two of me, and I couldn’t agree more. The difference between people while their manic compared to when they’re in a depressive state can be jarring to those who care about them.
One minute, you’re with this lively social endearingly psychotic man/woman, and the next you can’t even manage to get a hold of them via text or force them from their bed to brush their matted hair. This has always thrown those I love for a loop. My family members, for the most part, can recognize my different stages and somehow manage to cope with the numerous versions of their daughter and sister that occasionally make their appearance.
Has she locked herself away? Don’t push it, she will snap out of it.
Is she talking so fast it’s hard to comprehend her sentences? Laugh at her wit and compliment her eccentric makeup choices.
One of the most difficult situations when it comes to living with Bipolar Disorder is making it known to your significant other. As someone with severe insecurity issues, I can’t see why dudes decide to date me. But they do, and even as I write this I have somehow managed to land another really nice guy. However, my comprehensive list of mental illnesses isn’t really something I like to whip out on the first date. The most painful fact of my particular struggle with Bipolar Disorder is that I know for a fact the guys I’m with fall in love with the manic version of me. They’re almost always dumbfounded when they first hear me cry about how I don’t understand why they love me, or the first time I tell them that I want to die. They’re left with a shell of the person who just breathed a fire into their bodies the day they met.
This is why I think it’s important for me to write this, so I can explain mania and depression in my own experience and maybe shed some light on the similar experiences of others.
I’m going to start with Mania, because it’s just so much more fun. I’ll come right out and say it, I love being manic and I know other people love me for it. When I’m manic, which I am right now, I think I am the most interesting person to ever walk the planet. I’m efficient in everything I do, vastly creative, and one of the most driven people you’ll ever meet. Once I set my infinite energy to something, I can’t be stopped. The sense of confidence that radiates from me attracts people like moths, and you can trust that I love every second of it. When I’m manic, I am very selfish and inconsiderate. Consequences don’t exist, and the feelings of others don’t really matter. It took me a while to be comfortable with the negative side of mania, but in the moment none of it matters because I feel great.
Mania comes with a feeling of other-worldliness, like you’re superhuman and nothing can ever hurt you.
“I dare you” is the sentence that has almost ended my life numerous times, because I can do anything and I will prove you wrong if you think I can’t. This leaves people with two opinions of me. Either, “Damn this girl is certifiably insane”, or “She is the most exciting and fun person I have ever met let’s be friends till we die”.
However, this sense of euphoria comes with severe drawbacks, most of which don’t affect me until I’m coming down from my episode.
I’ve had sex with strangers in places I don’t remember, I’ve done drugs and drank more than I’m proud of, I’ve spent entire paychecks on bulimic binges, I’ve stolen my parent’s cars with no driver’s license and parked NEXT to a police officer, I’ve jumped off a bridge and shattered both my ankles, I’ve allowed men to convince me to take off my clothes and jump into a river for 30 dollars, I held a lit cigarette on my bare hand for 20 seconds. The dangerous situations I’ve been in because my brain has no off switch could have killed me, but I love it because it’s short lived. But the high always ends, and I’m left with numerous scars… both physical and emotional.
Once an episode of mania ends, it’s inevitably followed by depression.
I can usually sense these coming on when I find it harder and harder to get out of my bed before dinner time. Darkness envelops every corner of your once electrified body, draining you of any traces of power. Nothing I once loved is enjoyable, even the music I listen to in order to breathe makes me sick to my stomach. I become miserable in every sense, and the once cheery person everyone grew to adore is gone. She’s replaced by this creature who only lives to consume and destroy. Words of hate and disdain spill from my mouth toward everyone I love, but I save the strongest ones for myself. Someone that was once so creative and active now can’t find the strength or motivation to go to the bathroom or brush their teeth. The stench of self-loathing follows me around, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. When I actually do find myself in the shower, I can only sit on the ground staring blankly at the ugly orange tile, waiting for any sense of feeling to return to my body as the water starts to run cold.
Dissociation is frightening, and I don’t know any other way to explain it but viewing your own life through a TV screen. Your body is going through the motions, but your mind isn’t there and you can’t feel a thing.
Personally, I’ve had numerous occasions where I have actually watched myself go through life while I was floating above my body. Not only are emotions scarce, but any physical sensations are too. In a desperate attempt to feel anything at all, people going through depressive episodes often turn to self-harm and suicidal attempts. I can personally account for this, because feeling separate from yourself for so long breeds even stronger self-hatred. The day I tried to kill myself, I only did it because I was trying to feel something again.
Bipolar Disorder is a debilitating mental illness. In both my highs and lows, I’ve been placed in circumstances where I could have been arrested, severely mangled, or even dead.
But the hardest part of living with this mental illness is that it just doesn’t seem legit enough.
When someone with Cancer or Fibromyalgia can’t go to work because they can’t get out of bed, no one asks questions. This malignancy thrives in your own brain, and it won’t hold up on an absence note because it won’t show up on any scan. Living with this takes some serious guts, and despite how hard it can be to watch someone you love go through it, sometimes you have to take a step back and watch in awe. In both their pitfalls and their highest highs, there is so much beauty and strength in everything they do.
From the whirlwind that is mania, with its vibrant colors of creativity and unapologetic loudness; to the throes of depression, and the sheer power it takes to battle it day by day.
Loving someone with Bipolar Disorder is hard, but I can promise you it will always be worth it because we feel our love so strongly, and will fight with everything we have not to lose it.