I don't know why i'm writing this blog post, and at the time of writing I don't have a title for it. For those that don't know I suffer from a mental illness called Bipolar Disorder. I don't medicate (for various reasons which i'll get onto later), but last night I felt i'd finally lost all hope. I've never shied away from talking about it because I think its important to discuss mental illness given how difficult it can be to understand not only by those who don't suffer from it but also those who are suffering from it.
It involves periods of highs and periods of lows, summed up by this great diagram (courtesy of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance of Tampa Bay).
Most people won't sway too far from the midpoint on this diagram, perhaps moving to happiness and sadness based on how things come - if you get a new job, for example, you'll feel happy. If you lose your keys and are late to work, you'll drop a bit.
Bipolar Disorder means I'm able to witness the entirety of the spectrum. While a simplified view is looking at it as though I could wake up on a good day or I could wake up on a bad day, the truth is that seeing things that way is incredibly reductive. Its a bad hour, followed by a good ten minutes, followed by a week of mania. Its an amazing day with family ruined halfway through by a sudden change of mindset. Its pushing people away when all you want is company.
It isn't without it's "perks", if you can call them that. Last night I finished writing a new song for my band while laying awake in bed. Being able to experience every emotion within any given period of time leads to these sort of creative opportunities.
Unfortunately, the rest is exhausting:
- I have no energy to go out with friends.
- I spend too much money.
- I cry, a lot.
- I have absolutely no sense of self-worth and am constantly unsure of myself.
- I lose all interest in things I enjoy doing. I took this week off of work to make music and play video games and haven't done much of either, preferring to sleep.
- I sleep 4 - 6 hours in the middle of the day if I'm not at work because my head feels like its caving in.
- I'm so easily distracted at work sometimes I have to have music in my ears even when all I want is silence and calm.
- I sometimes talk quickly or start a sentence without knowing what I want to talk about.
- I wonder what life would be like without me here.
I do my best to focus my mind - work keeps me busy and visiting the gym gives me a routine. Making music with my bandmates is great and when I do see friends I feel like I can have a normal life. Last night, however, I realised that I will never be normal.
A lot of people with bipolar disorder take medication such as anti-depressants. Having tried numerous times and with various side-effects, I can't do that. I "self-medicate" by taking time to recharge my batteries by doing things I like doing, but thats getting harder than ever. I love my friends and I love my family, but no one will ever understand because it isn't as simple as asking "whats wrong". My fiancée is amazing but I see the toll it takes on her.
No matter how well my day at work goes, no matter how proud I make my parents, no matter how many friends I see, no matter how good my relationship with my partner is, I will always feel broken and unable to be fixed. Its the feeling of being 27 years old and not knowing who I am, what my personality is, and where the missing pieces of me are. I hate not being good at something, not because I'm competitive but because I feel its yet another part of me missing. As I get older my singing voice seems to be fading quicker than usual, and I worry about where i'll be without my one discernible talent.
I appreciate this blog post is doom and gloom but the last thing I want is for anyone to worry. Primarily I wanted to vent and this is my platform to do so. I've questioned my religion recently, something i'd never done before, but I maintain that there is a plan. Theres no proof, of course, and maybe my beliefs are nothing more than a safety net but i'm still thankful for them.
I'm truly thankful for my fiancee, my family and my friends. This illness isn't a "monthly strop" and if it seems that way then I can only apologise. Everyone fights a battle and while I feel i'm losing right now, the magic of bipolar is that by tomorrow, maybe i'll be back on top again.