I’m an open book. I often write about bipolar disorder, and what it feels like to have it, what it feels like to go through the shifts, what it feels like to have this label slapped on your head. But I feel like maybe I haven’t been frank.
Maybe I’ve been beating around the bush.
Tonight, someone asked me a question about bipolar disorder. They asked me if there’s such a thing as being manic bipolar. I wasn’t sure what to say at first. I’m really not sure how deep into my instagram or blog they’ve read into so I didn’t know if they knew I had the disorder and were asking, or if they were just asking because they assumed I’d be knowledgable on the topic from social work school. I get a lot of random mental health and social work related questions because that’s what I’m getting my masters in so this isn’t out of the ordinary.
But let’s get back to the point. Do you tell someone “oh hey! You know, I have bipolar disorder so from my experience…” right off the bat? I know the stigma that surrounds this mental condition and I know what I’m up against. But it’s scary you know? It’s like fuck heres someone who has one idea of me (whatever that is), do I really want to let them in and give them this new idea to work with too? I want to be honest, I really do, but at the same time I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or deal with something they don’t want to. But there I go again, stigmatizing myself.
Anyway, I just answered their question and clarified what bipolar disorder is, describing both sides. I don’t know if I was clear, but I’m pretty sure I was nervous as hell texting back my response because I felt like a fake. I felt like I was giving the google response and not the genuine real one. So I decided to make up for it.
I decided I’m going to really sit here and write about bipolar disorder. I’m going to be very frank with myself.
I got diagnosed at 20, in the midst of my biggest identity struggle yet. Am I still Irene from Whitestone who was friends with everyone and thrived in their home town and had the seemingly nice life and same friends for her whole life? Or am I Irene, the girl who should get out of her house and go back to Delaware and finish what she started and continue the life she was so terrified to have somewhere new? I think we all know what I chose. (Option 2)
It was November 19, 2014 at 4pm when I received my diagnosis. I made my best friend come with me to my appointment and wait outside. I was terrified. I had decided to go to a psychiatrist on my own, behind my family’s back. I went after being “super sad” and “super happy” back and forth for pretty much my whole teenage life, but even more so that last year and especially during that last month.
The label was a quick way for me to hate myself.
Great, I’m bipolar. I’m fucking crazy, aren’t I? I thought.
And I’m not sure if I’ve shaken that idea out of my head even now, three years later. It’s not that I think I’m crazy, it’s that I wish I could trust myself the way that other people do. But we’ll get to that.
All these years of being the life of the party one day and a homebody who nestles in their room the next finally made sense. I needed a balance, but my mind and the chemicals in my body weren’t able to do it on their own. So the doctor gave me a script and two months later, I transferred back to the University of Delaware.
It was 3 months in when I stopped taking my medication and about a year until I finally went back to the doctor and admitted that there was no point to him sending me refills – I wasn’t taking them.
So there we had it. I became manic again. Happy, go lucky, shining fucking star Irene was back. This is always the first stage. I’m hyper, my words are running a mile a minute, I’m cured! I’m not bipolar, I was just sad for a bit. My friends love me, boys really love me, and school is no problem. I have all the energy in the world. I am ready for anything. There’s so much to do, there’s so many ideas to jot down, I am so fucking excited about my life. And as for all my insecurities and issues that are underlying? Forget it. They don’t exist. I probably made those seem bigger than what they were. I love to drink. God, I could drink you all out. I love to smoke. Who doesn’t love to get fucked up and dance and sing and make out with that boy in the bar and leave them hanging at just the right moment? Right?
Boom. Drop. Bang.
I’m back to being depressed. And all it took was me thinking the mania was a real sense of self. It wasn’t. I wasn’t really happy. That was my disillusion again. And now I remember, shit shit shit. Great fucking work Irene, you’re back to square one.
So I go to the doctor.
I tell him I’m depressed again. I can’t get myself to do anything. I don’t care about school all that much, I’ll get to it when I get to it. I don’t really care to hangout with my friends because all they do is annoy me. Don’t bother trying to date me. Don’t bother trying to talk. I’m not interested. I want to be alone, in my familiar discomfort.
So he hands me my new prescription, and I’m back in a few days.
I am so good and religious about taking my medication now that I don’t really hit these extremes like I used to. (I still get glimpses) But, I’m also much more aware.
Remind you, I blocked this diagnosis out for a year and went about my life with it underlying, effecting everything in my life. My school work, my friendships, my relationship, it was awful and I didn’t even realize it. I guess that’s what comes with maturity and the actual want to make your life better and stable.
But I’ll tell you. There’s days, like today, where I’m a little hyper and I’m a little excited and I’m a little talkative and it’s a lot for me too. But as long as I don’t do anything stupid, or make bad decisions that effect my well being I figure why not embrace it. So fucking what I’m hyper and talkative and maybe a little flirtatious or suggestive. Give me a break. There are so many worse things on this earth than being manic. It’s a problem if I was manic and spending all my money or dropping all my responsibilities for some new pursuit that I think is a good idea because of the mania. It’s another thing if the most that I am right now is hyper – I think we can all handle that.
But then there’s days and I know I’m a little bit lower. And that’s okay too. On my worst days, I feel numb and that’s a little scary because it feels like nothing can effect me. I remember when I was dating my ex and sometimes he would come over and come into my room and be so excited to see me after a long day and obviously want to cuddle and have sex and I was “tired.” It wasn’t that I was tired, I was depressed. I was disinterested in him, in our sex life, in being present. But it wasn’t about him – does that make sense? It’s that you actually shut down and you don’t feel. It’s so scary and I don’t wish that emptiness on anyone. I really, truly, don’t. It’s lonely and it feels like you’ll be there forever. But it goes away, eventually. I feel like people get depression so I don’t really have to describe it much more.
It’s the combination of both that makes bipolar disorder so unique.
How do you tell someone who is depressed that they’re capable when all they can think about is their sweet misery and that when they do feel capable – it’s a temporary high? How do you tell someone it’s going to be okay when they know that being okay means they’re just on the track straight to depression again. How do you tell the people you care about “hey, I need a day to just chill and be alone don’t take this personal” and have them not take it personal? Of course they do, we all do. But really, I’m protecting you from me. I wont leave you hanging if you need me, but I wont necessarily be putting my right foot forward without a need for it.
Mania is fun. I won’t lie. Some of my best memories are the ones where I was manic and that feeling of being on top of everything is indescribable. Euphoria, the most beautiful state of being. Dancing on a boat in Greece, getting drunk with the bartenders in Mexico, laying on the lawn in Amsterdam smoking a joint, sleeping with the enemy because it’s the best kept secret – are you keeping up? But how do you appreciate happiness if you don’t know if it’s real? Where can I separate mania from real happiness? Where do I realize if I’m actually happy or this is a facade? If it sounds confusing and shitty, then I’ve made my point – it is.
I don’t always know if I can commit to things like careers or projects, because I’m not sure if it’s my mania doing the work, or the real confidence I have. It’s intimidating.
But if there’s one thing that I am because of it. It’s that I’m a really good fucking person. And I will not let anyone take that crown away from me.
I have a heart of gold and will drop anything at any time for anyone – that’s my signature move, I’ve been told. I am passionate. I really will put myself second if it means that someone needs someone to put them first for a minute. You don’t need to ask, I promise you I feel so deeply and empathically that I don’t need an explanation. I like being that person. I think anyone who is close enough to me will tell you that I’m a fucking good person and I really don’t feel the need to be mean to anyone. I mean don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t fuck with me – but I would definitely rely on me.
I am always thinking of people. And I love to love. If you read my blog, follow me on social media, know me in person you know that 50% of the shit that comes out of my mouth is absolute bullshit. I am completely fucking with you, joking around, and I am just being a smart ass because I can. I love when people get me. The other 50%? Regular stuff like everyone else, and probably some weird ass theory I read or some existential thought or question that will make you wonder what I’m on. But past that is a really sensitive little soul that cries when no one looks because they hate when other people feel bad for them and is always putting on a front to block out the fact that they care about everything, and everyone.
That doesn’t change with my moods. That’s who I am at my core. That’s me. And it took me a long time to realize that thats one thing I can always be proud of.
I’ve had writers block for a few weeks, and now I’ve been typing for an hour and a half.
I think I’m better now, and a little “hyper” shall we say. So there you have it.
2030 words later, I’m just being frank.