Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
#worldbipolarday #bipolar #bipolarbum #manicdepression #endmentalillnessstigma #mania #depression
Bipolar: How to be in two places at once
Everywhere we go, we occupy two completely separate places. One usually takes priority, emboldened by our current mental state, but nevertheless a person with Bipolar occupies two separate worlds.
Think of it as two narratives being played out on speakers. Periodically the volume shifts heavily from one to the other but you are left with the sometimes dreadful knowledge that it WILL oscillate at some point in the future. Just acknowledging this can be a stressor in and of itself and many people with Bipolar require that they are CONSTANTLY vigilant observing their mental garden, and pulling out the weeds as early as possible.
As white-hot, humming mania begins to recede I become anxious and pre-emptively disheartened at the potential of how low I may become within the next few days. A tsunami of depression may be looming and I can do very little to combat it once it slams into my mental coast.
I have to begin consciously combatting negative self-talk and my primary concern in life suddenly becomes defeating the backstabber in my mind who is intently trying to jump-start the process of rumination and self-loathing.
When manic, I am productive and it is difficult to disuade me from charging, bull-headed at almost every idea that I have. I have begun to channel the mania with moderate success.
My depression is the polar opposite of this. There are days periodically where I cannot function at what would be considered a healthy level. With business decision making being what it is (informed almost purely by the bottom line) – This means that I am very unlikely to be able to hold down the nine to five, five days a week job. As an employer would you set a person on who on average fails to functionat the most basic level for at least four days a month?
World Bipolar Day for me is about two things:
Trying to make people understand that this illness isn’t a lifestyle choice. For many of us it becomes the thing that chooses our lifestyle for us, whether after initial diagnosis or permanently. If someone you know is wrestling with Bipolar (and that isn’t over-stating the struggle) – Please take the time to try and understand that we don’t consciously decide to be up, down, both or neither. The nature of this illness is that those sorts of choices are more or less absent from our box of tools for dealing with life. Read up a little about the illness, it really is the least you could do for someone you care about.
The second and most important use we could have for World Bipolar Day is to encourage anyone with the SLIGHTEST suspicion that they may be dealing with this illness, at any level, to seek a diagnosis and treatment. The statistics surrounding how common mental illness is make for unpleasant reading and there will be enough of them quoted today everywhere else.
All I will say to the great undiagnosed masses is : This is not a choice. You don’t choose, by being diagnosed, whether you are ill or not. The only choice left to you is whether you will help yourself and anyone who cares about you by engaging this illness and attempting to limit its influence on your relationships, state of mind and future. Bipolar Disorder is a life threatening illness.
If you heard of someone who was diabetic deciding thatdidn’t want insulin, would your opinion of their character be influenced? Mine would. I would think they were being ridiculous. The same goes of someone electing to ignore mental illness or battle it without the available armaments.
Below is a link to the Bipolar test from The Black Dog Institute. Take it, even if you don’t suspect yourself of illness. It takes a minute or two at the most. The thing to remember is that NOT everyone gets depressed. NOT everyone has nihilistic thoughts. It is true that a lot of the critereon leading to a Bipolar diagnosis might feature in the lives of healthy individuals. Not ALL or MOST feature at the same time.
The last and probably most important thing for anyone WITHOUT a diagnosis to read is:
My worst psychosis is the belief (it feels like knowledge, like fact) that I cannot possibly be ill. That I am just being self-indulgent. That I am actually just a pathetic moron and that there are no anti-pathetic-moron pills out there that can fix me. I have to directly challenge these thoughts as they arrive and it is exhausting. If you are ill then not EVERY thought in your mind is your own. Keep this in mind and keep your mind open to the possibility of being unwell, regardless of what your brain throws out at you. The nature of this illness for me meant that I have spent my whole life avoiding a diagnosis because of a feature of the illness itself.
All the best my Bipolar brethren – and the same goes to anyone supporting us in this, sans illness!