I have explained to many people, many times, that bipolar is existence at the ends of a spectrum. It’s not that your average person doesn’t get sad, or happy, or devastated, or related, it’s simply that they do not experience these emotions so fully, so much of the time. My bipolar problem isn’t the existence of these emotions, simply their intensity, their duration and their frequency.
All this bipolar emotion makes people look at me strangely. I know. But oddly, someone it seems not only loves me in spite of bipolar but even finds reasons to love me in the bipolar, because of the bipolar. Love.
Music and Bipolar
Music can fillet me. Songs that mean nothing to me can draw tears because I find the melody tragic. I really feel, from the bottom of my soul, saddened, depressed by the order of random tones or impassioned lyrics. The song itself could actually be expressing something happy, but something in me perceives it as heartbreaking anyway. I have to be very careful about the sounds I expose myself to.
You’re Too Sensitive. (Yes, I’m Bipolar.)
When my heart breaks it shatters into a million pieces each aching and bleeding through my body. And to some extent it is always broken from the pain of my everyday life.
Drowning in Emotion
The thoughts and the descriptions and the ferocity of emotion makes it impossible to take a deep breath. I gulp tears instead of air. Brackish water enters my lungs and I feel myself drowning. I feel myself drowning in tears and blood and sobs and screams; each one daring me to let go and stop thrashing against them.
My Bipolar Life Lives In This Anguish
And it is no surprise at all that others can’t stand next to that. Couldn’t if they wanted to. It will drown them too. Or they will stop seeing the water and the pain and pretend I’m bobbing along like everyone else.
These emotions, these extremes, these jagged edges, these razor shards are not one of the best aspects of my personality. They are roadblocks to fitting in with the others. The people around me. Joining the world. Being human. I know I live in another place, in another time where people can’t go. I know. I try to hide it. I try to build a human shell around me for all those I pass by, and then I crumble when I walk through my door and sob and spin until the next time I have to interact, tiringly, gluing back the pieces of my outer shell. So tired. So exhausted from pretending to be some part of me that other people can understand.
I Love You, In Spite Of, Because Of
Oddly in a tiny world in the dark with bleeding tears, broken shields and vulnerability I am loved, I am honored and I am cherished anyway. Cherished and bipolar. In this place I understand that it isn’t actually in spite of all unresonablness and extremeness but actually because of it. Because it is part of me. Because in amplification and anguish and terror and blades there is a messy, complicated, folded, person worth loving. Somehow these parts of me that bring endless pain and steal life are somehow beautiful. They glisten in their purity. There is nothing more human than pain. There is nothing more human that suffering. There is nothing more human than love.
Last night I watched Crazy for Love a very bad movie wherein a man, Max, is put into a mental hospital for attempting suicide for the tenth time. When he’s there, he glimpses a very ill, schizophrenic, Grace, whereupon he instantaneously falls in love with her. She too is determined to kill herself. His life’s mission then is to “make her better”. To “make her happy”. Having found his new mission in life, he no longer wants to kill himself.
Well, pin a rose on his nose.
White Knight Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder
The white knight syndrome typically occurs in men and is characterized by being attracted to, and needing to save, someone in distress. This is not so bad if it leads to someone helping you pick up your groceries after the paper bag broke, but in mental illness circles, it’s very bad news indeed. More at the Breaking Bipolar blog.
Stabbing is bad. It just is. If you have to pick self-harm options between cutting, hitting, and stabbing, don’t pick stabbing.
Unless you’re trying to kill someone, in which case I think stabbing would be pretty good. And satisfying. I’m surprised more murderers don’t pick stabbing.
Anxiety, Impulse Control Self-Harm and Stabbing
I’m having anxiety issues. And impulse control issues. And stabbing issues. Well, that last one is really a function of the other two, but it’s an issue nonetheless.
I’ve always been attracted to stabbing. I think that’s because when you start wielding a blade with force, you can’t change your mind. And it’s so easy to did deep. And draw a lot of blood.
Stabbing and Scars
And as I considered stabbing, I also thought it had the advantage of leaving a minimal scar. You cut down, not across.
This turns out not to be the case. Stabbing doesn’t produce a large incision, but the one it does produce tends to gape and cause more scarring than you think. Just trust me. Don’t try it.
And so, as much as I like the force, and blood, and bruising associated with stabbing, I’ve really written it off as a self-harm method. Death method, probably decent, self-harm, not so much.
Self-Harm, Stabbing is Bad
But as I’ve said, I’ve been having issues.
For whatever reason, for whatever cocktail, for whatever brain misfire, I seem to be turning in super-anxious-suicide-girl at night. Like, way more than usual. And on top of that there seems to be a real lack of impulse control on my part, last notably seen with the cutting of my wrist with broken glass.
Hitting is Bad Too
And so I had been hitting myself with a blunt object, went into the kitchen to cut up a yellow pepper, and then as I was removing the core I thought to myself, I wonder what it would be like if I hit myself with this knife. And then I just did. And then there was a lot of blood. I was standing next to the sink so I just tried to keep standing while the blood went down the drain.
It just kind of, happened. Like stubbing your toe. An accident.
And it’s fine. My arm is fine. There does seem to be some nerve damage going into my thumb, but it seems minor and may get better, I don’t know. This isn’t really my area of expertise.
Self-Harm Without Control is Really Bad
And I don’t know. It’s a scary thing. To do something, without intention. One of the problems is I really don’t care if I die. I mean, like, really don’t care. I’m so over it’s unbelievable. So when something pops into my head, whatever filter I did have doesn’t exist. So I just do it.
And then there’s the drinking. Crazy people shouldn’t drink. Crazy people on meds really shouldn’t drink. Crazy people on meds and tranquilizers really, really shouldn’t drink. But I feel so irreparably horrifically self-loathing and suicidal that I couldn’t care less that it’s a bad idea. I’ll take any idea at all that would mask the pain. Even a little.
Sigh. All roads lead to scar tissue.
Again, try not to worry, OK? You’re scared, I know. I am too. But there’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing I can do. I’m suppose to see my GP on Monday and maybe she’ll be able to get me in to see a psychiatrist. Of course the psychiatrist won’t have any answers so it’s a bit moot. More moot than usual. Ultra-moot. Now with more brightening power.
This silence feels familiar. I despise the deafening, familiar sounds of silence. They terrify me. I suppose the silence strangles me. Strangled, alone, screaming.
I Hate Being Ignored
People who know me, know this about me. They know how much I hate being ignored. They know that when they don’t return my calls or my emails my mind riles in negative and catastrophic scenarios. People who actually like me don’t want to do that to me. It’s the depression. It turns the pain of being ignored up to unmanageable levels.
Of course, there aren’t many people left who actually like me. Or at the very least, they don’t treat me like they do. I don’t know what it takes to be treated with care and respect. Most people just don’t treat me that way. (And yes, there are exceptions.)
Being Ignored Feels Like Loss
To lose another person I love. To lose another person I thought loved me. Not only does it prove to me that no one really does love me, but it also proves that no one ever will. That I can never trust that anyone actually does. Even the people who say they do, can watch me slip, screaming into the worst deadly mire without even blinking.
And here’s the question I leave to you: how many emails from a suicidal girl would you ignore? Even if you didn’t like her. I mean, really.
(Upon pushing the publish button I actually did receive a 1-word email. Perhaps I’m not being ignored, I’m simply immensely unimportant. Sort of not news.)
It’s understandable that people who love those of us with a mental illness tend to feel powerless. But here are some ways you can help make the world better for the mentally ill.
Bipolar is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric conditions among teens and twenty-somethings, but there has been little written about it from a younger person’s perspective and few people know how to approach the topic. In her new book, Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar but Were Too Freaked Out to Ask (Conari Press, May 2010), Hilary Smith fills in the gap with an upfront and empowering approach to the challenges of being diagnosed with bipolar. Here she shares with us six tips for making the world a better place for people with mental illnesses.
- Meet a person with a mental illness. – The best way to learn about mental illness is from a person who lives with one. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a new program called In Our Own Voices in which people living with serious mental illnesses give presentations in their communities. These free presentations are a great way to learn about what day-to-day life with a mental illness is like, and presenters (who live with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) are more than happy to answer questions from the audience.
- Believe passionately in recovery. – The next time you’re walking down the street and you see a homeless person with schizophrenia, try to picture what his life would be like if he was getting adequate care for his symptoms. With proper treatment, the same man might be at home throwing a baseball with his young son, or growing prize tomatoes at his apartment. Severe mental illness does not have to equal homelessness, but until we learn to see people with severe mental illnesses as capable of recovery, their plight will all too often be seen as inevitable.
- Talk openly about your own experience with mental illness. – Even if you’ve never struggled with a serious disorder like bipolar or schizophrenia, you’ve probably had a friend or relative who has.
- Support legislation that helps people with mental illnesses. – Campaign for health care reform banning health insurance companies from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions. Vote yes on bills for affordable housing and increased funding for mental health programs. Support campaigns to keep people with mental illnesses out of prisons and receiving the treatment they need.
- Teach your children about mental illness. – Children often absorb their parents’ attitudes towards people who are different. Explain to your children what it means when they see people with mental illnesses acting or speaking in unusual ways. Emphasize the need for compassion and tolerance, and always put the person first, not their disorder. Teach your children not to see a “crazy lady,” but a woman struggling with a disease.
- Support community organizations that help people with mental illnesses. – Give time or money to an organization in your community that provides outreach, shelter, job training, counseling, or health care services to people with mental illnesses. Mental illness affects millions of Americans every year. One day, the person most in need of these services might be a friend, relative, co-worker–or even you.