Illustration by Vivian Shih

Manic by Kathryn Kreiman

On The Hills and Valleys of Bipolar Disorder

“The manic phase of bipolar depression is not a sad depression. It is the exact opposite.

It’s when you are so full of life and vitality that you are unstoppable. You move at breakneck speed and accomplish 48 hours of living in a 24-hour day, all with a smile reminiscent of the Cheshire cat on your face. You have unbreakable concentration. All in the world is good in your eyes.

But bipolar disease is tricky. Lulled into a false sense of stability during this manic phase, you find yourself smiling, laughing and comfortable in your own skin. You take this as a positive sign that all the therapy and medication is beginning to work — that your dedication and hard work to shore up the barricades protecting your own precarious existence is starting to pay off.

An undulating ocean current is pulling the sand from beneath your feet, drawing further and further from the shore.

Then suddenly, you can go from being atop the summit of Mt. Everest to the deepest of darkest, soul-sucking places. Once you’ve been there, it causes you to never fully look at life the same again, as the epic battle of good versus evil is taking place inside your head.

To your loved ones, you look fine on the outside, but inside, you resemble something very different. An undulating ocean current is pulling the sand from beneath your feet, drawing further and further from shore, until you can no longer stand on your toes to keep your head above water.

It is here that the relentlessly pounding waves just keep coming, one on top of another on top of another. They force you under the surface as you are violently tumbled about. You try your best to claw for the surface, but even when you emerge, there is no time to breathe as the next wave crashes over you. Lungs heavy, like cement blocks, they quickly start to burn, as your mouth fills with salty water, swallowing the taste of tragedies earned with each tear you’ve ever shed. Spitting and choking, panic sets in.

Like huge black globes, your eyes dilate, betraying your inner strength by reflecting your terror. Your exasperated heart pounds in your ears, the muffled thump being the only sound you can hear. Screaming as loud as you can, your loved ones, in the boat just feet away, can’t hear you even as your arms flail and feet desperately kick to keep you afloat.

Suffering from extreme exhaustion, you feel yourself losing your grip on life, yet you relentlessly fight on heroically. The idea of permanently silencing of your mind with death is appealing, and you consider it. As essence drains from your physical body, tired limbs gradually come to a halt, but your mind is still aware. Your eyes, still open, now only register shadow as you slowly begin your descent into the abyss.

An essence drains from your physical body, tired limbs gradually come to a halt, but your mind is still aware.

You try to push death aside, you want to continue the fight, but you are not running this show. You feel like a passenger, this all being out of control. Your eyes are stinging from the invading saltwater, and now you are forced to choose, will you live, or will you die? Will you breathe in the salt water and drown, or will you find the will to go on? It’s up to you to gather the strength to keep going.

This story first appeared on ENDPAIN, an online magazine focused on creating valuable content and meaningful experiences, with the goal to dismantle paradigms of shame, fear and guilt associated with pain. Select stories are published on Medium, a

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