I’ve written before about being bipolar, and the FUN and EXCITEMENT! that comes with it. You read about Charlie Sheen and his tiger blood, and how it’s classic mania. Catherine Zeta-Jones quietly announces she’s going into a hospital for a bit, because she’s bipolar. Anthony Michael Hall, Macy Gray, and so on. Intelligent and creative people…The Arts attract bipolar people, because we’re creative and dramatic. Mania does that, there’s so much energy in it, and intelligence, and the arts, whether it’s music or acting or anything creative, are a perfect fit for someone who’s full of energy and creative expression.
But for every up there is a down. so called “neurotypical” people, those blessed folks who’s emotional sine wave has a fairly low amplitude, sometimes have trouble understanding why we “non-neurotypicals” can’t just control ourselves. Why can’t we just see how unreasonable we’re being? What the hell is Tiger’s Blood anyway? I had a conversation sort of like this with my son a couple of days ago. He said he didn’t believe in mental illness, that we should recognize when we’re being unreasonable and make ourselves stop.
I tried that once, I saw that I was being irrational, and tried to make myself stop feeling the stuff I was feeling, and wound up with a migraine headache, vomiting and hallucinations for my efforts. Visits to the doctor, powerful medications, therapy…all because I couldn’t just make myself stop. I remember the relief I felt when The Good Dr. H announced that I was textbook perfect Bipolar 2, and would be on medication for the rest of my life. IT WAS REAL! I wasn’t just a crazy cat woman in the making!
All that Charlie Sheen business..the only difference between him and me with a lot of that was the size of his ego and access to national media. He is famous, I am not. (thankfully). I have no doubt in a while, maybe a year or two, maybe less, he’s going to wake up one morning and wonder “what the HELL was I thinking?!” and feel deep embarassment for his behavior. Oh, he may hide it behind some bluff or bluster, but it will be there. Then depression will take over. That’s how it goes.
When you’re bipolar, not only do you have the mood swings, you have the *consequences* of the mood swings. You get to, in your depression, evaluate over and over again the things you did when you were manic. You get to have people in your life say to you “what were you THINKING?!” All of that builds on itself, along with the depression, until it becomes this thick, brittle cage around your psyche that takes months (or even years) to chip through, and during that time, there’s more mood swings, more mania, more behaviors, that are like mortar slapped on top of the old stuff, making the walls of your cage thicker.
I have tried, through this 20 years of diagnosis and treatment, to always accept the consequences of my actions. I try to never lay blame on a disorder, to never say “I couldn’t help it, I’m bipolar.” The truth is, no matter *why* I do or say something, the consequences are real. And the disorder is part of me. It’s not this seperate entity, some sort of demonic possession “the Devil made me do it” excuse. It is as much a part of me as my love of cooking or delight in my marriage.
Sometimes I wish it were something Else, that I could point to and say “that wasn’t ME!”, but that would become so convenient, wouldn’t it. I could run someone down in the parking lot at Walmart, and when I was arrested, I could say “I didn’t do it, it was me disorder that made me!” But that person would be just as dead. Their family would be just as upset. They wouldn’t say “Oh she couldn’t help it, bless her heart, she’s mentally ill.” and then not press charges.
I’m mood swingy right now. Can you tell? One of the symptoms is that I start thinking too much. In an effort to keep from laying blame on some third person disorder (The Devil made me do it!) I start internalizing everything, and accepting blame for all of it, from the weeds in my garden (because I water too much) to the stress on the rest of my family (they wouldn’t be stressed if I were a Better Person), to…I don’t know…allof it. I am pretty sure if I tried hard enough I could find blame for the Saudi women not being able to drive, or the war between Croatians and Serbians. It’s easier to accept blame than it is to fight with excuses. Which totally winds up sounding like a big fat pity party.