Published on Saturday, 02 March 2013 19:48
Written by Jules
I just visited a blog that I have never had the chance to visit before, and looking at it was so painful, I doubt that I will visit it again.
person, whom I have followed on twitter for sometime is, like myself bipolar, and on the blog the writer wants first and foremost to tell you that this is all a result of very limited medication, and wants to share with you many decades of bipolar experience along with methods of recovery. After this preamble there is a menu of items you can visit that include things about the blogger that appear to be justifications for how bright we need to know all of this mishegas compounded together creates some sort of air of authority.
I don't tell you this in anger, in fact I think it is very sad. The site is, in it's self a manic nightmare to look at. The post I read was, that day on the first page, and is impossible to follow. I dug around and found that on some days there were upwards of four and five posts a day.
I have rewritten and edited this post a number of times. I am trying to be so careful here. Trying to make sure that my point overrides what may sound like a bitch fest. I am not sure that I am going to be successful. The one thing I do know, without doubt, is that I have been in this place, and will be in this place again. Even on my medications I have "breakthrough" manias. None of us is perfect or impervious to the evils of this disorder. And to be clear, two words are important here: evil and disorder.
Often times I have seen online, and even in books by certain "expert" bipolar authors, that the manic episode is a time of great thought and creativity. That those of us with bipolar disorder are the creative ones, the brilliant ones. The list they present is long, and rather impressive. All of the many famously brilliant actors, writers, scientists, painters who have been diagnosed, or it is suspected would have been diagnosed as bipolar, are presented to us as a sort of manic hall of fame. And there is no denying that, historically speaking this is true. There are many great individuals that have done amazing things in spite of this often times crippling disease.
Isn't there always a but?
BUT, when you look at the lives of those people, the documentaries made, the books written, the slightly fictionalized tales of their lives, what is one thing they all have in common? Come on, you can say it with me.
They were miserable. Not just miserable, they were fucking
Sure, you could tell me that some of them, way back "in the day" were not medicated. That is true. So, of course they would be miserable. But some were. And I, I know that I am medicated. I am also not a brilliant thinker of our time, or any time for that matter. I also know that I have many bipolar friends. Some that choose medications, and some that choose to go without. We all have different experiences, and I can really only speak with any authority on my own experience, so I will do that and leave you to speculate on just how different the human brain can be in others. Just how special a snowflake am I compared to all the other bipolar patients out there.
When we, as bipolar patients, in an attempt to justify that it is okay to be sick because other people who did great things were also sick does something very wrong. When we feel we have to justify our illness we are saying that it is not ok that we are the way we are. We are taking ourselves down a rung if not more than a rung in the citizenry of our species. We are saying that we need an excuse, we need to have better poster children than ourselves to prove that being bipolar isn't bad. And, in the process we wind up glorifying the very worst parts of this evil disease. We end up saying "Hey, this guy did fantastic things while terribly manic (and miserable), so me being me is just fine!"
I am here to say that you, being you, taking care of yourself and avoiding the very worst symptoms of this disease as often as possible is the only poster child you need. We don't need excuses for who we are. We don't need to hold ourselves up to comparison to anyone who may or may not have done their greatest work while manic to make what we go through any more real, any more in need of care, any more need of being treated properly by the medical and lay people in this world.
And then there are those who want the mania. Those who strive for the mania because they believe the lie. They believe that it really is what makes them better at what they do. Better for how long? Better at what price?
I cannot imagine a world where it is "ok" to sing the praises of the symptoms of an often dangerous psychiatric disorder. I cannot imagine a life where one manipulates medications or triggers to bring on possibly life threatening manias for the illusion of productivity or creativity.
Yes, I said "illusion". Let's think about it. If you have had a manic episode, how many projects have you started and not finished? How much money have you spent that you shouldn't have? How many times have you thought you possessed some sort of ability that you did not? Well, let me tell you a few things about myself: I have started "the great American novel" about twenty times. I have painted the entire inside of my house in one night, while pregnant with my daughter. I have had more business ideas than companies I have worked for. I still really want to do one of them, what stops me is the knowledge in my stable times that the darn thing would never make money, and take up a whole lot of time.
In my life, I have known one un medicated bipolar that I feel has a real handle on her symptoms. She is someone I know now, and is a member of my Chronically Awesome Facebook group. She makes a very creative clothing product, and takes great care of her son. Of everyone I know, she is the only exception.
Now let's think of the typical examples. When I think of those "brilliant bipolars", I think of times I have seen Robin Williams or Jim Carey completely take over interviews, bouncing off chairs and sofas, and for the first couple of minutes being very funny. After that first couple of minutes, what happens? It starts to get uncomfortable just watching them. You want them to stop, to let the other people on the show have a moment to talk. And while it all appears to be one big joke, I know exactly how they feel.
This is pretty much how it goes, if it's anything like my manic episodes:
1. The fog lifts.I have felt it coming on, but when it will hit me full tilt I don't know, then even the sky looks a different color. The chronic pain of my other disorders takes a back seat. I have energy, and a desire to get some things done. This typically begins with some sort of organization project. That will lead to another organization project.
2. I have a conversation with someone, I notice that my speech is pushed, I try to slow it down. Since I don't have many people in my "real life", these conversations are mercifully short. This was not always the case. One day at work I was talking at the lunch table. Once I realized I had been talking for 45 minutes straight at an amazingly high rate of speed, I got very embarrassed and went quickly to my office. I was told by a friend that when I left, someone said "Wow, what was up with her today?" My friend replied to the people at the table, "I think you know that this is a struggle for her sometimes, she doesn't do it on purpose, just let it go ok?" You see, everyone at work knew I was bipolar.
3. After several hours of the mania, it builds to a point where my skin starts to itch from the inside. I just want out of myself. I want to paralyze my tongue from all of the talking. I can't sit still, I am squirming, and sometimes this makes me anxious.
4. At this point, all I want is for it to stop. I have grown far too much with this disease to let it take me away.1987 was a long time ago, I am a grown-up with no time to feel this bad, but if I do not catch it in time, my tendency is to get aggressive and mean. I become very agitated. I will get argumentative and picky.The worst part of my self-righteousness is that I won't pick fights in areas I don't have a considerable amount of knowledge in, and most have found fighting with me to be a fight and not a debate. It's useless, and no fun. That's not to say it's always this way. I have fought with people about the spelling of their own children's names. (True story) Or, what the Yiddish word is for something (why? what is the point?) I really turn into a pain in the ass.
When I need a manic episode to stop, I have medications to sedate me. The sooner I do this the better. I usually do this the first day. I go to sleep and wake up feeling pretty shitty but no longer manic. (sometimes) Tired, but no longer out of control. (sometimes) This is better. Manic is just not fun.
I have read over things I have written while manic, and I get embarrassed. I tear the papers into tiny pieces or delete the documents and empty the trash immediately. I have deleted hours worth of tweets as well. And yes, on the rare occasion, I have done things I do not recall.
I am not a painter, I am a writer. When I write while manic, the descriptions of everything from character to the type of day and season will be so long winded and overly detailed, I bore myself re-reading it. And, there is so much, so many words, it's not editable, it cannot be salvaged. Besides, when the mania is over, I am no longer interested in that topic.
Does any of this sound fun?
And Van Gogh? He cut off his ear.
Now let's address the really annoying expectation of the public of a manic patient.
"Manic girls are great in bed." Seriously, many men say that.
"Mania looks like fun!" If your idea of fun is having your brain put in a food processor on high for hours or days, sure. If you don't value eating or sleeping, yep, big fun. If your goal is to lose friends and alienate people, big time carnival right there. If you want a giant depressive crash (not right away) sometime afterward, then YES, mania is a blasty blast.
"But you are so happy when you are manic!" Don't confuse hyper to the point of agitation with happy. Nope, not the same.
"If you don't like mania, wait a minute and you will be depressed!" It doesn't work that way generally. Some people can go for a long time (a year, or years) without a manic episode. Perhaps even have a few depressions between manias.
"Mania must make you feel so good!" Like I said earlier, it feels like my skin is itching to be scratched off. I can't sit still and I am physically and mentally agitated. That does not feel good.
I believe that those who write in praise of their mania have got other issues along with their bipolar. No one wants this, and no one needs this. If it were a good thing it would not be an illness and we would not need medication to set the path straight again. When you see/hear/read of someone praising their mania, think about their judgment, and consider this litmus test for whether you want their "expert opinion" on how bipolar impacts their lives.
I wanted to save this little nugget for last. You may have noticed a religious component to some people's mania. When you see this, this is a pretty good sign that someone is really not feeling well. To feel that God has a plan for them when they are manic, or that they are a more highly evolved creature that is closer to God when they are manic is getting too close to psychosis than I am comfortable with. (As I am never comfortable with any closeness to psychosis that's not saying much.) That is a person that may need to seek professional help sooner rather than later.
All of that being said, I wonder now: Just how cool is
our manic episode? No matter how many famous people are also bipolar, does that make having it really awesome? Let's take our meds and do our very best to be stable. There is no need to justify our illness with a cool factor, just live the best we can, treat our disease like we would treat any other disease. See the doctor, take our medications, manage our lives.
Being bipolar doesn't make us happier, or smarter than anyone, it just makes us bipolar.