Having bipolar is like having fatigue in the middle of a race. You’ve worked hard and gotten several miles in, but an inner tension arises between your body and mind. Your body tells the mind, ‘I’m going to shut down.’ In having the disease, your mind also tells your body, ‘I’m going to shut down.’
This manifests generally in the form of motivation during depressive cycles. You don’t feel an urge to get the day started. You feel hopeless or sad when you sincerely desire not to feel so.
Mania is like the body running without a mind. It starts to have a mind of its own. You burst at the seams with grandiose thoughts and flights of fantasy. You sleep little and proclaim gibberish as if it were the divine word of God.
When I was first manic at 20, I was involved in a deeply devout church group. I showed up to a mens’ prayer meeting and declared I was a prophet. I thought the end of the world was coming. I was a deliverer of the truth, but it wasn’t long until the truth was delivered to me.
I remember the distinct feeling of being sedated after the doctors gave me a small dose of antipsychotic in the psychiatric emergency ward at the closest hospital to my apartment.
I remember lying down on the fabric patient bed thinking of how nice it was for my mind to take a rest. Running all semester without a sense of place. Yet, there was an incredible sadness that it had come to this, in a sterile room with a book, having declared myself insane. It wasn’t difficult checking myself into the hospital, but it was difficult lying down and waiting for the nightmare to be over. Two of my hallmates came to pick me up.
I remember clearly that P told me it would be alright. That her mom had gone through psychiatric episodes that were depression-related. Her childhood, she explained, was a navigation between the mental breakdowns of her parent. She seemed familiar with the practice of comforting the disturbed.
Is that what I was? Disturbed? I came to grasps with my own mortality early on; I saw that the glass doors of the psych ward protected me only physically. My own mind needed rest.
I don’t have any prescriptions for fixing people, but I know that the stigma surrounding mental illness has to go away for people to have an honest conversation about it. It really starts with seeing ‘disturbed’ people as worthy of sympathy.
I hear some of the talk of some of my SF friends who work in tech and I wish the dialogue around homeless people would improve. They are people too, not fleas on a dead thing. Yeah, not all of them are pleasant. But you can’t expect to experience wealth without poverty. People fall through the cracks if you don’t properly fund safety nets, social programs, and mental health counseling.
I’m not saying we need to raise taxes or whatever. I just want to improve the tenor of our talk to be more wholesome and holistic — not just the ‘this inconveniences me’ attitude of dealing with the more unfortunate among us.
Because this expanse belongs to all of us; this is a world for people and not simply for a few. There is plenty and there is cheer and there is merriment for all to partake in.
When I was taken back home to sort out my own mania, I felt like I could breathe in a sense. When it wasn’t enough to hold sanity in my hand.