I tend to shy away from telling people “I am bipolar” because none of us really are anything and I don’t like the message the verb “am” sends. I am a human. I am a person. I am not bipolar.
Bipolar is it’s own thing. It is complicated and messy and looks different for everyone who has it. It is amorphous, it is ambiguous, it is destructive, and it is, at times, unbearable.
I am not amorphous or ambiguous. I like to think my destructive days are long behind me but, hey, there’s still a lot of life left to live. I worry that others think I am unbearable even when all the bears are coming from the disorder and not actually me. It’s hard for them to know that and I don’t blame them for struggling to understand that. Thinking about why you feel what you feel and whether or not that feeling’s real and valid is something that neurotypical people will have difficulty understanding because they don’t have to do it.
I don’t blame anyone for not understanding. I’m still trying to understand, to be honest.
Bipolar and other mental illnesses still have a long way to go in terms of accessibility to information, more definitive diagnoses and causes, and treatment plans that don’t leave people braindead or more depressed. The metacognitive work of discovering why you are the way you are is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life (and your girl has done a lot of hard shit). As a person with bipolar I am an emotion detective, a mood master, and a trauma private investigator. Not a day goes by when I am not digging into why I’m feeling what I’m feeling and how I can adequately process said feelings. I never just get to feel.
Since my diagnosis in May of 2018 at age 30, my life has gotten significantly better but also significantly more messy. Spiraling out of control for 15+ years is a weirdly comfortable place to be because it didn’t require me to take responsibility for anything I did and was my “normal”. What I didn’t acknowledge, I didn’t have to change. I could spiral out and move on to the next shiny thing without so much as a glance backwards. People might describe the then-me as self-assured, confident, sure of my decisions, impulsive and also an ice cold bitch. The reality was that I was sprinting away from constantly feeling shitty. I was sprinting away from feeling, actually. My impulsive decisions, in all areas of my life, were in hopes that this next thing would numb the pain. Stopping the pain was more important than any person or relationship. That was no way to live. It wasn’t actually living, in fact.
Since starting therapy and getting treatment, I have no other choice but to do the daily work of acknowledging my behavior and moods and emotions because what is the alternative? Something I've recently learned is the avoidance of psychological pain actually creates more psychological pain. All those years of running actually left me with even more stuff to wade through. My new normal is making sure to: trace my emotion’s origins, apologize for moments of spiral, set boundaries, start again, and tell others, explicitly, how they can best help me when I can’t help myself.
So this is part of that process. The writing, the digging, the unearthing.
This is what bipolar looks and feels and smells and tastes like for me.
This is what my day to day existence is as a person with a mental illness.
Welcome to my bipolar life.