The Burden of Different; Life in the Bipolar Lane

Last week my father would have celebrated his 86th birthday. But he passed away 3 years ago in January and the onset of his birthday caused me much grief. Grief for me is dangerous. Why? Because I’m different. I lose touch with reality and instead fall down a rabbit hole.

In that hole there are a variety of options to accessorize my mental wardrobe. Sometimes I choose simply not to exist at all. Instead I take on the persona of others that I find more appealing. It’s like trying on lipstick or shoes. I like to feel them against my skin and see if they take the itchiness away. Will this $800 pair of shoes take away the feeling of not belonging in my own skin? Will this new lipstick to add to my already 200 others finally be the one to make me feel normal? If I put this new foundation on my face will I finally be pretty enough? Will it cover up all my ugliness and scares?

In the middle of my manic hysteria I am absolutely convinced that these precious new shoes, lipstick, and what ever else I’ve bought will do the trick. A trick that I’ve been practicing but thus far have failed to master. Ah yes this time, this time is different I say to myself. This time I added extra dresses and jewelry so all of me with be covered head to toe in beautiful things.

Then the Wicked Witch of the West arrives on her broomstick and looks me straight in the eye and says really bitch? You really think that’s going to trick them into believing your anything other than a basic boring bitch  ? And just when I think I’ve finally fooled everyone into believing that I’m just like them her words stop me dead in my new red slippers. Suddenly the world is black and white and all the colors of Oz are nothing but a painful reminder. The rabbit hole morphs into solitary confinement. The damp air opens my pores and the diseased residue seeps into my bloodstream and sickness starts to set in deep into my roots. Memories start flooding the cell and rapidly start pulling me down. This is when I can’t decide to keep my head above the water or just let go.

It would be so easy just to let go and stop clinging on to hope. Hope for me has never been a loyal lover. But the words that really stick out in my mind are Hamlet’s. I’ve always marveled at Shakespeare’s insight into the minds of his character. Who hasn’t? But for some people Shakespeare’s words bring tears to their eyes not because of the beauty of syntax. It’s the context and semantics of his work that for me brings utter and complete stillness of mind.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

My memories never die a beautiful death. They stick to me and no matter how hard I rub they always out stay their need. The need to destroy my love for life. My hopes and dreams of escapes. In the aftermath of the flood when I’ve finally decided to hang on and the water starts to drain away the wreckage looks condemnable. How am I going to clean up the battlefield this time? All that money that was supposed to be for food and rent is now gone.

The new purchases don’t look so new or beautiful anymore. In spite of this I start slowing cleaning up taking one item at a time and not looking around to see how far I still have to go. Then it’s time to face the victims of my madness. Suddenly I’m not so fun anymore but instead judged as the crazy as fuck bitch. But I can explain. I beseech you please I tell them. I suffer from bipolar and sometimes loss myself to the madness in the background. Really I want to be just like you I say to them. Please please forgive me and I promise I’ll behave.

For years this was standard protocol on my part. I would do anything to fit in. Sometimes it worked but more often than not it didn’t. When someone decided to stick around our shared friendship developed into a toxic mix of neediness on my part and the power that neediness brought to my counterpart. The friendships that I have lost to this disease are too long to review.

The friends that have stayed are use to my madness and not scared off by it. They also help me see red flags that on the onset of an episode I can’t see for myself. Some have suffered greatly from my delusional states but still find it in their hearts to love me for what and who I am. In return for their love and acceptance I am fiercely loyal and unbendable in my commitment to our relationship. They have kept the light on during the storm while most didn’t. I owe them my life. Remember to love and love well. They have taught me how to do just that.