Hey Bipolar! You are busted.
I see what you have been doing and I am on to you. For years, you have come in unannounced and unexpected, hijacking my mood and perceptions and even altering my behavior. I never once gave you permission to rent a space in my head, wreaking havoc in every area of my life, often down to the minute details. You came in so slyly that many around me questioned your existence, often asserting that I could easily “shake you off” if I truly wanted to by exercising or thinking positively. They were unaware how you hung on to me, smothering me, refusing to let go. There were even times I loathed myself due to your presence, feeling powerless, weak, and ashamed.
I would do ok for awhile and begin to make plans, only for you to come riding in on your dark horse, capturing me, and dragging me to the ground. Days were spent in bed, numb and dissociated from the world around me. People would call, but I was too exhausted to do much of anything and there were days I actually dreaded walking to the bathroom.
I would force myself to get up and go to work, but was anxious and depressed often from having to expend so much energy to hide you and keep your symptoms at bay. I was often praised for my work, but your relentless presence caused absences and this inevitably resulted in job losses. I was angry that my talents, skills, and potential took a back seat to your ominous and foreboding presence that would not leave. It seemed unfair, cruel.
There were those occasions you showed up so strongly, I was pushed into a frenzy, often manic and obsessive. You would have me spinning and hooked so tightly on a topic, that I’d often lose track of time and space until you dropped me with no warning, back into clarity and calmness. I was disoriented and disgruntled. You would then leave me to pick up the pieces from the mess created by those fanciful and frenzied moods. Often in those spaces, I was raging and could hear people in the far distance asking” “Are you ok?” and “Are you rapid cycling?”; Yet you had me in a vice so tight that I couldn’t come up to the surface to breathe. It’s a very undignified position that you put me in, over and over again. If I could hold you accountable somehow, you’d deserve a life sentence for robbing me of my potential and peace.
I went through this cycle for years, often absorbing what should have been attributed to you. I had a difficult time separating myself from you and questioned where you ended and I began. You took up an enormous space in my life. I’m still doing my best to diminish and contain you as much as possible.
Many people in my life, from co-workers to partners, thought on some level that I could contain you if only I tried and I was seen as not credible, lazy, dramatic, etc. I was repeatedly blamed for your presence and that alone was damaging and devastating. Your antics colored my existence, leading people to believe that your symptoms were my personality. I went along with this for years confused and bewildered, until one day I saw the pattern in its entirety and I said, enough.
Bipolar, you are busted. You do not get to claim my identity or any part of my personality. You are an only an illness, and a shitty one at that.
I realize that I still have to live with people not understanding your presence in my life. I have spent years living with you and even I am often baffled and must search for answers. I will find ways to wrestle you to the ground and contain you. Lithium only goes so far. But, I won’t let you make me feel ashamed anymore for the times I am taken against my will, spinning. I am making a promise today and always to let you know who is the boss. You don’t define me. I will find ways to decrease your presence in my life and one of those ways is to not get caught up in angst and anxiety when I’m dropped by you after an episode. I’m just going to accept it and “address it”!
Bipolar I is a lifelong, chronic illness that requires effort and persistence to manage and cope. Shedding light on the struggle can release the shame that potentially keeps someone suffering & sick. So many steps to the healing process, and I do not feel I was truly acknowledging how much shame has kept me trapped and stagnating. I will keep fighting, acknowledging that I live with a severe and persistent mental illness that has known cure at this time. And, I will not be bound to the guilt and shame of an illness I have no control over having. It chose me, not the other way around!