It sickens me to think of the way I used to feel about myself. I was a beautiful person inside and out, I was just a young kid, and I was riddled with mental illnesses I thought it was impossible to beat. Looking back on that now, I understand why people who have been healthy of mind their entire lives have so much difficulty understanding what it’s like. However, recollection paints my life as a tragic story. But, I’m still a hero (if we stick to our metaphor) and I’m still here (literally). That’s why I write about mental health; I owe it to my younger self to help people understand mental health and erase the stigma. In order to have people who don’t want to listen hear you from far and wide, you have to shout it out.
Today’s topic is one that I have yet to talk about. I have a few different things to say. It isn’t in my blood, just in my life. It wasn’t by any chemical imbalance or anything like that; that must be why it felt so personal for me when I was combatting a mental illness. But this one wasn’t mine; it was in another person and I didn’t know anything about mental health at that time. It was tremendously difficult on so many people for years on end. And, good god, did it leave an imprint on little me. Let’s discuss.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already well aware of how much damage is caused when a bipolar individual refuses treatment. Not just to an individual, but to the entire support system (the chain is only as healthy as the sickest link). As an example, here’s something I found really interesting…
“I hit a depression I couldn’t get out of punctuated by anxiety I couldn’t control… In two months, I was an unhinged mess.” Mike Wyant
I will never forget what it feels like to watch that or to live it. I’ve done both.
I’m not bipolar, but even one person in the family can do that when rock bottom comes for you. And in those dark moments, much like when you’re later trying to communicate the memories of them, you don’t even know where to start. It’s a family matter but it hurts to keep it private.
Don’t think bipolar disorder victimizes individuals; until it’s treated, everyone around them feels a degree of its effects. The genetic patterns of bipolar disorder are hereditary. You may remember learning in a health class that the gene is dominant; this means the chances of a child developing the condition have been reported to range from 60% and 80%. As a kid, I knew a couple of things:
1. Bipolar disorder runs in families.
2. It’s in my family.
For someone who had a front row seat to the storm that is untreated bipolar disorder to know the very thing that produces such a path of destruction has the pattern of inheritance that it does… is utterly terrifying. Now, scientific reports are vague and contrast one another relatively often. It appears we’re firing into somewhat of the dark when it comes to evaluating conditions like these. Strangers can never know the reality of the situation. But just imagine what it’s like to see your loved one’s life ruined every day, feel your family torn to shreds, then learn the cause of all that pain and destruction is in your DNA too. I used to think about God laughing to Himself over things like this- I know you thought you were out of the woods but hey did you see these trees?
If most people reading this know what it really is to live with the disease, then I cannot understand what you’ve probably been through and what you must do to keep yourself healthy. My perspective is different: I’ve watched the condition, untreated for decades, run the gamut of manic and depressive episodes.
Now that I’m actually sitting down to write about everything I’ve wanted to say for so long, I have no idea where to begin. I’ve never published anything about bipolar disorder before. Who am I to discuss something I don’t even fully understand? As I’ve told you, I’m someone who knows it like you know an abuser even though I wasn’t the one abused in this simile.
There’s nothing more terrifying than knowing you can’t escape and you can’t be saved except knowing your family has suffered immensely and can’t heal because they always know there’s more coming. Just when rock bottom blindsides you, you learn that it gets worse. That’s a valuable lesson in my opinion because it keeps you grateful: remember that whatever you’re going through is not the worst thing you could possibly be experiencing.
More of My Work (specifically for depression and anxiety):