If you’re bipolar, are you just happy and sad?

So, when I was first diagnosed bipolar, I did a search on the web regarding bipolar disorder. Out of a morbid curiosity, I checked the image search section and was angered for a moment.

You see, when you run an image search of bipolar, you get a lot of drama faces. You know the ones. The sad and happy masks. You probably remember them from at least high school drama class, even if you only ever walked past the door in the hall.

But is that accurate?

Well, as I said, I was angered when I saw the faces. I was angered, because I’m an actor and to take those faces and throw them up at me, while I’m searching to learn more about a serious mental illness I had was frustrating. I believe my exact words out loud to the internet were, “Thanks guys, thanks. Way to rub it in.” And then, I thought about it and thought, “You know, it is true.” And then it didn’t offend me anymore.

But it’s not true, the cake is a lie

Almost a year later, I can look back and confirm that it’s a lie. The cake is a lie. How do I know the cake is a lie? I’ll explain.

What are we treating? Are we treating that we are sometimes happy and sad (manic and depressed)? Are we trying to achieve something? What’s the end goal? Is it to eliminate these emotions? Is it to find some undefinable thing we call normal, which no one can seem to give us a solid definition on, because even normal people can be jerkbags. Jerkbags, people! Do I wanna be a jerkbag?

Wait, what?

OK, so here’s the thing. I believe it’s an illness, and like all illnesses there is a you behind it. You are not the cancer, you are not the Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, or whatever. You are not the depression, mania, PTSD, cold symptoms, flu, or whatever. You are the person behind it. Take away the disease and that’s who you are underneath. That’s your normal.

“Hey, mister.”

Finding yourself buried beneath the mess that is your brain is like when Cary Grant finds the body in Arsenic and Old Lace, “Hey, mister.”

In a previous post, I talked about how I put off for years seeking help with my mental health, under the delusion I was only suffering from ADD or ADHD. Reality, as I look back on my life, is that I can trace the bipolar symptoms back to high school. I didn’t finally receive a diagnosis until about 7–8 years after I noticed some harmful symptoms, which I hadn’t been treating. What I didn’t realize until recently is that I hadn’t really felt like “me” in years. I know that sounds weird. But it’s true.

I recently switched medications, and after a month of good reactions to it, I found myself one day just feeling… like me. And I stopped. I stopped abruptly, like Cary Grant, and felt like something strange had just happened. I was neither manic nor depressed. I was me. I had just discovered the body of my former self in the window seat.

Make up your mind, be you

So, yes, the cake is a lie. I am not Mr. Manic and Mr. Depressed. I am not Mr. Happy and Mr. Sad. These are symptoms of a disease, and who I am is someone in the middle. And it’s that person that I wish to be, why I take the pills and am proactive about treating the disease. Because, I am not a disease. I am a person, and a pretty awesome one at that. Just ask anyone who agrees with me.

Now get out there and do the best imitation of yourself, because nobody can do you quite as well as… you.

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