(B)eing Bipolar Sucks
I knew that it was going to happen. I was having too many good days. I was moving too slow. I was getting “enough” done in my life. Everything was just right.
But that doesn’t work when you’re bipolar.
For those of you that don’t know or only have exposure from the media, bipolar disorder—in practical terms—means that an individual moves between a set of manic states. It can be daily, weekly, or unpredictable. Sometimes, these mood swings can be extremely happy to extremely depressed. Sometimes angry to happy (most of what I see in the media), or even violent to love (calling Christian Grey).
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I had bipolar disorder. Mainly because I come from a history of it. My mom and brother have the manic rage-affection-depression cycles. But they are violent. I was never violent to anyone. I was an achiever, over-achiever, hyper-over-achiever.
I would go through phases where I would complete publishable academic work in a week. I earned a masters degree (from a real, not online, had to go to class college) in less than 11 months. I applied for and got jobs I was only barely qualified for. I once built a year-long chemistry curriculum—lecture slides, worksheets, labs, activities, and all—in the space of 2 weeks. I felt on top of the world and slept like a baby beside a woman who cradled my soul as if it were the last in Creation.
I would go months without paying bills; my reasoning being that we had what we wanted and why worry about our credit? I would watch Netflix, read, doodle, stare at the ceiling for hours without end. I would cry for no reason. Sleep had forsaken me. No one could love me (that’s not true but that is what it feels like). Life not optional, but not worth the hype. I sat beside a woman in bed who cried and sacrificed Creation for me.
Three years ago, I admitted to my family (actually my wife’s because her family is more supportive than mine) that I was depressed. They all knew this, but faked that it was a breakthrough. I saw a counselor and that helped for a few months.
After a few months, my counselor and my family asked if I had talked to my doctor. I went off the handle. I thought my mood was normal. Looking back, I realize that it really wasn’t. I may have raised my voice a little. But I saw my doctor and started anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication along with counseling. And life leveled out.
I still had a need to achieve though. I applied for a research internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratories working with nanomaterials. Which I had never even considered until that point.
Did I mention that I am a teacher? I mean, it was cool, but I lived in a motel for two weeks, briefly left my wife (she waited for me), did some innovative research, won a grant, and quit in the space of 3 weeks. Luckily, this was in the summer and my principal was cool with it. She knew before I did.
Two years ago, my wife and I decided that the meds and counseling weren’t working for me. My doctor agreed and also said that he did not feel comfortable with any further mental health care (he’s my general practitioner, fyi) and recommended me to a psychiatrist.
After two meetings, a couple of tests and deeper than comfortable conversations, Psych said to me, “Guy, you know what I am going to say.”
“No,” I responded, “you’re not. Because I’m not.” Hyperintelligent, fear-driven, over-achiever knows best.
Psych proceeded to get up and walk around his desk. Come over to me. And give me a slap on the face. Metaphorically.
“Not every bipolar individual is the same, man. Yeah, some are violent. Some go ‘I love you’, then hit you, then ‘I love you’ in the same hour. But you, man,—he says “man” a lot—you achieve. Some people do that. You want to help others achieve. Do that, man. But remember yourself and the ones you care about first.”
I cried. I cried on the way home. My wife cried that I had finally admitted it. After a year of finding the right medications and finding a psychiatrist, psychologist balance, and trusted group of friends at work and home, I am finally starting to get things in order.
I still have moments. That’s what this is. I woke up from a dream where I told my high school AP Calculus teacher, “I already know how to do this” and started thinking, “how can I use my church testimony to save my church? I’ll talk to the reverend, draw up an ecomap, and go from there” followed by, “I need to work on my Ch 3 for my dissertation so that I can get that proposal defended in the next 3–4 weeks”. Did I mention I woke up at 3:30 AM after going to bed at 11 after I considered learning to re-solder blown resistor connection in a dishwasher panel?
Being bipolar sucks.
Everyone is supposed to eat the rainbow — you know, orange carrots, red bell pepper, even purple potatoes. I’m pretty sure that the little green heart counts, so if you liked it please click it and let me know so I get all the nutrients I need to make it through the day.