I’m sorry this is long.
I haven’t talked very blatantly about this lately. At least, not in a big way, not since my big tell-all about it in December. But, it’s been here. It’s real. It happens and it’s something I deal with.
I have a lot of “good” days and “stable” days and “normal” days. I have “mediocre” days, “meh” days, and “bad in a normal sort of way” days. I mean, there’s always a certain level of having to work just a little bit harder to lead a “normal” life compared to my “normal” friends. Most days, that’s not that big a deal. Then there’s days, like this one, where a segmented rational part of my brain knows, despite it all, that whatever mood I have isn’t necessarily a reflection of real-life.
It’s my brain, lying to me.
I’m always bipolar. I always will be. But I don’t always feel it in a big way.
And when I do feel it, it completely sucks.
If you don’t fully understand bipolar disorder, it’s a condition where your brain has trouble moderating its own chemicals. I don’t fully understand the biochemistry involved, but chemicals known as “neurotransmitters” are not effectively managed. Some folks have episodes that last months at a time and have long breaks in between. Mine isn’t quite like that. My episodes come in short bursts, and tend to be more subdued.
Either way, sometime during the afternoon, the mild feelings of “Tuesday sucks” suddenly turned into the familiar, dreadful realization that my chest felt hollow and empty. I lashed out at friends over minor things, because I was panicking about these feelings setting in. When others tried to have open, honest conversations with me about the crash we knew was coming, I put up walls, hid behind forced sarcasm and humor. I began questioning my own self-worth, my own skills, my own quality of work in my job and in my life. These things are normal.
I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to ferret away the hurt and act okay. While I don’t say it enough, I’m blessed to have friends that are willing to say, “I know you’re not okay today.” I’m trying to learn to be okay with not being okay. It’s hard. I’ve driven people away with my own instability, and now I’m overcompensating by holding it in…even around those who are accepting and nurturing.
I made a “vagueBook” status about it — nothing specific. The folks who know me well enough knew what it meant. Others who didn’t still had support to offer.
The simple fact is something in my brain is off-kilter and I’m on my way down to what I typically refer to as a “crash.” I had a feeling this was coming — I’ve felt too good for too long. And it wasn’t until the crash hit today that I looked back and realized that I’d been operating a little fast lately.
In early adulthood, these disorders can fluctuate a lot. The “brand” of bipolar I deal with now feels very different than the one I dealt with in college. I don’t always know how to handle it. Now, I have longer periods of “stable” in between. And after years of dealing with little or no normalcy, the stability scares me. When you’re used to sailing in turbulent seas, solid ground can feel foreign and uncomfortable. The “new normal” of my bipolar disorder seems like I’m on a cycle that brings three or four (bigger but manageable) episodes a year, with smaller, milder ones in between. It’s taking getting used to.
I’d actually say bipolar disorder for me is a bit of a blessing. I get the joy of experiencing way more of the human emotional spectrum than most people can enjoy. While I spend a lot of time talking about how I don’t like “feelings,” that’s a lie. I just don’t like MY feelings. Despite that, I can empathize with people very easily. When you’ve felt pretty much every emotion in the book over a three-day period, it’s hard not to understand the full spectrum. I may not always show it, and I may act “okay” — but damn, do I feel it. And I feel the co-existing conditions that have developed alongside or because of bipolar: anxiety, mostly, and the occasional craving for a bulimic relapse. (I won’t do it. I refuse to let myself do that this time.)
Oddly enough, crashes bring up some fond memories too. The college roommate who walked to the candy store and bought a Heath-covered caramel apple to lure me out of bed when I was feeling particularly depressed; the many wonderful friends in my life who have held me while I hyperventilated during a panic attack; my best friend’s husband, who broke into a bathroom with a screwdriver to get to me because he didn’t want me falling back into bad habits. These things happened during a period of my life that I like to refer to as, “damn-near rock bottom.”
I’ve come a long way since then. Now, I have my faith, a strong career, and a wonderful support base. I have a lot more life experience, a lot more perspective, and a lot more self-love than I had when the theoretical shit was hitting the fan. Ideally, I’ll never be in a place to need that level of support again. But, if I needed it, I know I have it.
In a few days, I may be on the higher end of the spectrum. Or, I may be back to “normal” — I’m not entirely sure. But in the meantime, I’ll take care of me. I’ll turn to the folks who help the world make sense to me. I’ll pray. I’ll talk to my therapist. I’ll try my best to exercise, even though I really just want to lay around and feel sorry for myself. I’ll keep on going.
Because, you know what the best thing about bipoar disorder is?
The bad is temporary. The good, though…the good things I’ve gained because of this monstrous burden, those things stick around. So, if you seem me being moody, antisocial, anxious, uncharacteristically quiet, or overcompensatingly chatty this week, bear with me. It’ll pass.
Today, I feel bipolar. But I know I’ll be okay.