I don’t understand my mind. It’s that simple. It is my one love, my greatest asset and simultaneously the only thing I believe I am truly afraid of. It serves me in a way I do not understand, like a dysfunctional relationship full of oxymoronic passive aggressive games. When people say to me (or I say) trust yourself, go with your gut or what does your instinct tell you? I cringe. It wasn’t always that way, or rather I didn’t feel it was always that way, but now I question nearly everything. My biggest concern has become keeping myself safe. How does one do that when what you fear is your own mind? How…when what you must trust is the one thing you can’t trust.
My bipolar is not at the forefront of my life. I often-to-always choose to push it back, down, under, away, which only serves to have it bubble up like a sewage backup in a museum. While I try to keep myself assembled, I occupy a space suspended somewhere nearer to a decade ago. However, the world moves forward. My best analogy to how bipolar feels is that of a river. At its start a bubbling brook that flows gently, allowing fallen leaves to float along, animals drink from the shores, and fish glide through varying depths with ease. As I drift along, I can see and feel rocks occasionally scratch me along the way. They redirect the water, interrupt the flow as I continue to move. I might need to hold my breath occasionally, swallow some water, work harder to stay on course. Until…the rocks are boulders. They span the river and line the shores. They are high and low, jagged and smooth. The water moves faster and staying afloat becomes nearly impossible. It is thrilling and horrifying, somewhere between invincibility and asphyxiation. Between each rolling rapid I’m submerged under the water, unable to breathe. But just when I’m asking for permanent absolution from life, I rise up and feel the euphoria and power. I can do anything.
But, just as rapids come in different classes, so too do episodes of bipolar. For too long, I fought reality, instead choosing to ignore and remain oblivious to any consequences. After years of circumventive efforts; unhelpful prescriptions, work as an escape, school as an escape, fear as my only companion, anger and frustration the only two emotions allowed, I am chipped. The veneer is cracking, losing its gloss without any effective repair method. The build up to detonation formula is unsustainable. My momentary acknowledgement of the disorder does not substitute for a consistent regiment. My avoidance of anything real or substantial in therapy is an obvious tactic. Avoidance never works.
Although I have been in therapy for over a decade, I rarely give any information below the surface, always wearing a mask. I recently confessed my approach to a friend who just answered with honesty. “Why would you pay for nothing?” Mainly it is for the comfort of others. I can’t say I am in total denial. I know my disorders (bipolar, anxiety) and their potential effects. I have read and studied the digestible information and the scholarly publications alike. I am aware, well versed. But, but, but…I am not honest with the only person I need to be, myself.
At the end of therapy last week, I stopped and exposed a crack in my facade. I admitted to knowing and seeing things in my past that are easier if avoided. I connected a few dots between childhood bullying, depression, fear, anger and a debilitating lack of trust. Clearly it is not a one session fix, but it is a place to start. I also had a reckoning recently that if I don’t confront my bipolar, I may lose my mind and more. So, here we go.
I take a myriad of drugs, but not anywhere near as many as most. They do work to steady my mood and quell the twitches of imbalance. Because I am not always in full control of my mind. There can be a disconnect. I am often reckless and ambivalent to danger. The techniques I have learned don’t often help. Anger and frustration often feel like my only companions.
Wanting to wish it away or dismissing bipolar has not served me. In order to reconstruct my potential I need to surrender, accept my susceptibility. Only after I capitulate will I be able to alleviate the symptoms and heal my self-loathing demons. Knowing I’ve lived more than half my life with bipolar makes me feel foolish. But experience has shown me that even in dark times a single light may be all the spark necessary to ignite a personal guide for the inevitable trip down the rapids.
* My over-analytical mind doesn’t help in group therapy or CBT/DBT approaches. I question the integrity of the process, the methods and the sheeplike attitude of others in employing the tactics.