Hi everyone. As part of my A-Z of Mental Health Challenge, I wanted to discuss the subject of Bipolar.
Because I don’t have any first-hand experience of the illness, I approached a fellow mental health blogger and asked her to share with my readers, her experiences of living with Bipolar.
It’s an honour and a pleasure to introduce to you, Sandra Charron of sandracharron.com
How Friends and Family Members Wish Bipolar Disorder Be Gone
As a mental illness advocate, I am so grateful to be guest posting here. Over at my own blog ‘sandra dot com’ I share my story of mental illness since I know it’s one that many others are living and can relate to. I have bipolar II disorder. I was diagnosed almost three years ago, and the lumps and bumps since then have left me with big blue bruises which I am barely able to hide under oversized clothing and big, floppy hats. I mean all of this metaphorically, of course. Sadly, bipolar disorder is not visible; maybe if it was, society would be more accepting of mental illness and the care and treatment required.
Bipolar II disorder, not to be confused with bipolar I disorder, which is slightly different (and I’ll leave you to Google the differences,) is characterized by such highs that no other feeling on earth can compare. This hypomania, as it is called, begins innocently enough with thoughts that swirl around the brain; gaining momentum which each leap. Sleep becomes elusive as blood vessels and nerve endings explode with energy and excitement. Something as mundane as a painting project becomes an obsession as paint swatches are picked out, swapped out, thrown out, until the project becomes but one of many projects someone with bipolar II ends up ditching for something else; something invigorating which enables rapid fire thought processes. Hypomania is awesome. And I should also mention that people with bipolar disorder don’t usually have a ton of money since shopping sprees, gambling, throwing money out the window…well, let’s just clarify that cash is best left to those who don’t feel the need to buy the same sweater in seven different colours (true story.)
The problem however with hypomania is that it doesn’t last. Its high which pushes through cloud cover and swoops over mountain tops, eventually bangs into a ceiling with such violence, then crashes back to the ground with a painful smashing of brain on skull. The hypersensitive blood vessels and nerve endings of hypomania are replaced with the sadness of a depression so deep it burrows into every pore. The terrorizing nightmares of this depression leave its sufferer wishing for a relief which sadly, sometimes can take months and years to be achieved. Suicidal thoughts replace the ones of a manic euphoria. One would think that the mania would more than make up for the cutting pain of depression, but it doesn’t. Because the hypomania is the prelude to ugliness. It’s awesomeness is shrouded in a frightening cloak of uncertainty as each day brings forth the moment which could be the beginning of the end.
Obviously the illness itself is more than difficult to endure. However quiet the presence, its invisibility has the world believing that those of us suffering from bipolar disorder are not really sick. Because I can stand. Sometimes I can climb out from beneath the bed sheets that protect me from the evils of the world my mind is unable to comprehend or explain. My friends will say, “You’ll feel better if you come out with us.” My family wills the disorder to be nonexistent; a make-believe land in my head in which I apparently am choosing to soar to the heavens and then be dropped hundreds of thousands of feet into sharp glass which cuts me so deeply I wish one of those shards would puncture my heart. Watching me lay on the couch, unresponsive; unable to care for myself is attributed to exhaustion as opposed to depression.
Explaining hypomania to my family is difficult. How do you make people who love you and only have your best interest at heart understand that your thoughts are racing; that you don’t need more than three hours of sleep a night to function; that it’s not normal to plan and plan and plan, and then do nothing but stare at the lace pattern in the curtains. “That’s normal,” my husband will say. “So you get a little overboard about some stuff. That’s doesn’t make you manic.” Yeah. It kinda does. It’s not normal. Because when my mind is depicting stability (which isn’t often as my bipolar disorder has yet to be properly controlled by an effective medication regimen,) – but when I can feel a hum of normalcy, I am suddenly devoid of fanatical obsessions. But my family seems more comfortable believing I’m meant to be juggling fiery arrows rather than accepting the reality that I have an illness.
And so I continue to attempt adjusting to the idea that I have an illness which can’t be proven by a blood test or by an interesting lesion on my arm. It’s in my head, tucked behind smiling brown eyes that want desperately to convey to everyone in my life that I don’t feel good, I just don’t feel good. But instead I just sit there staring at that lace pattern in the curtains hoping someone will catch on to my silent cries for help and save me from this torture.
For more fascinating stories about my spontaneous home renovations at 3am check out my blog at http://sandracharron.com
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