I think the first thing anyone asks when I say that I’m bipolar–well when they don’t get awkward and not know what to say that is, is: “What is it like?” That is a really difficult question to answer. I’ve been vegetarian for four million years now and when someone asks me if a soy hot dog tastes like a real one I have the same quandary. Being bipolar is totally normal for me. It’s something I’ve battled, nearly lost myself to, and claimed. I can give you a million and one adjectives but you can’t possibly begin to conceive it in your worst nightmares or most delicious fantasies.
Having gone and been all vague and secretive, I’ll give you a little look see into what I think it means to be bipolar for me because I can assure you that every one who is bipolar experiences it differently despite all the symptoms and earmark similarities.
A few years ago, and a whole other story, I had what some might call an epiphany. The things I was doing weren’t working for me. I was trying to be something that I wasn’t and it was just driving me crazy… figuratively. I actually have a really issue with the term crazy being a descriptor for people with mental issues. Crazy is a train that Ozzy Osbourne sings about. When I hear people throw the word around it makes me snack on tacks.
….Look how quickly we got off course with that?
So things weren’t working and the five years of exceptional therapy Dr. Moore (my Psychologist) had been giving me while I was in L.A. had landed on a rather flathead. It’s not that I’m purposefully obstinate; living is routine and it’s hard to realize that you are making your routine hard for yourself.
We had moved to San Diego and things felt better for me, it’s another story for another time as to how they had changed. I was sitting in my awesome living room, on my awesome couch, with my awesome cat nearby and David, he’s my real life hero, my BFF Matthew and I were playing World of Warcraft. I had never been good at it and for four forevers I had tried and tried and heard only comments about my poor damage and low DPS and how I couldn’t do the mechanics. It made me feel horrible about myself. It made me frustrated with myself. It made me incredibly needy for someone to validate me in someway.
When David and I first started playing it was him and I in this magical world. We were this team; he killed things and I healed him, we didn’t do anything that brought us in contact with anyone else. For a long time it didn’t matter if I could travel around the realms or fight mobs or do a quest on my own. But at some point his desire to raid was a wave that swept me away. Years past and we were in raid killing Ultraxion and I screwed up one of the stupid phases where you have to hit a boss button and my damage was low and I had David talking to me about being replaced and Matthew telling me how to DPS better. I just shook my head at myself and asked, ‘why the hell I was doing it?’ ‘Why I was playing WoW when it made me feel like crap?’ And I started to realize that it had made me feel like crap from the very start of when raiding began for me. That was 3 miserable years of my life. I dropped out of that raid and I never raided again. I basically stopped playing. I log on to make Gold. Who doesn’t want to make money even if it is imaginary?
It was like a switch was flipped. I picked up my Kindle, dusted it off and voraciously began reading all those books I had missed. But then something else very surprising began to happen, I began writing.
Excitement is an interesting thing when you are bipolar… it’s like Adderall and Redbull. I manage my moods with a very delicate dosage of medication that has to be adjusted often. Many bipolar people get one magic pill and take it for a million years and die happy. Sigh… I am not one of them. My medical records read more like someone doing medical testing. I become tolerant to dosages easily and because I tend to be manic normally, ANYTHING at all that rocks the boat can blast me to the effing moon.
So when I first started writing I wrote 15-18 hour days for 4-5 days a week and then I’d crash. I call that crash ‘body failure’. My mind is a-okay to keep going; the body simply can not keep up. It only took a few weeks of this constant forced ‘up and down’ for me to run myself to the point where my moods took over and decided to cycle for me.
Mood cycling is when you feel one emotion strongly for a time followed by another mood afterward. It can be over a few days or over a few hours. It’s unlike a normal person’s range of emotions in that it can be subtle cycling or it can be acute cycling but it will be up and down. Most people won’t have that yo-yo or wheel like range of feelings.
Despite what you hear on television mania and depression–do not always present as anger and weeping. People like to ask me is if I get really mad. I am one of the most mild mannered people out there. I have gotten some ragers on but when I go hypomanic I basically become extremely loud, excitable, project oriented and I might want to leave the house. There are also times where intense anxiety enters all that though and during one of my projects I might find that instead of having 9 spoons we have 8 or instead of 3 of something we have 5. Something like that can freak me out to where David will have to come home. This is NOW. In the past when I was not properly medicated it was extremely difficult to control how I felt and I think the best word I have to describe for how I felt was “conflicted” all the time. I was frustrated and never knew if I was sad, angry, happy, blah, blah, kittens. Bipolar people feel everything very intensely and when you have emotional soup it creates a smorgasbord of accompanying symptoms. You can’t define it as X,Y and Z. It’s sort of like saying what color is the sky? I feel all the colors of the sky as bright if not brighter than you do.
Now all of this sounds heavy… I’m sure some of you reading this are out there thinking, “I wouldn’t want that.” or even, “How does her husband deal?” Well I assure you he has 14 years experience so he has been broken in for the job. As for me at the time I realized that I had wasted 3 years playing WoW and I figured out that you make the choice to make your life easy or hard. I can’t stop playing bipolar because I have high damage like I stopped playing WoW for the opposite reason… but the choice was there for me to stop making it hard for me to live with being bipolar. Actually, I decided to stop making it hard in all the ways I possibly could. I already knew all of my triggers. I already knew how to manage it. I knew what my weaknesses were and what my strong points were and I knew with what I was capable.
Being bipolar is like any other thing someone is born with and has to be developed properly. Like a quarterback learns how to throw a football or how a hurdler learns to run and jump. I don’t have all the answers and this is only one of my stories and even though it is written I’m still doing revisions. But for me this is a talent. My mind knows how to feel the largest array of emotions; I can apply that to people I meet to relate to them and my writing so that I can understand my characters better. Bipolar is also an incredible tool because from the emotional well it provides the most luxurious imagination. I’m not saying you have to have some mental specialness to create but I’m definitely saying the two-polarness is a plus. And I’m not going to not give props to the meds who give me lucid dreams which allow me to dream entire story arcs. I have 20 or so notebooks of novels just waiting to be written. And being bipolar is actually a great equalizer for me. It makes me stop and see everyone as individuals, single hearts and souls with stories, no lesser or better than me.
If it weren’t for that stupid fear of men between 14-60… but that’s another story.