As i am digesting and exploring this chronic reality called bipolar II, I am reading lots and learning lots. At first, there was still that lingering question in my mind about whether or not it is true. Maybe i am just seeing everything in a negative light and having low self esteem, or i am afraid of the pressure of success so i need an excuse not to be successful. If i just don’t give any of these things any energy or time of day and keep focusing on the positive, they will heal and go away, and i will wake up feeling better and there is always tomorrow. I thought that if i was really bipolar two, it would have to be way more obvious that i was “crazy,” like talking really fast and not making sense or not leaving my house for weeks at a time or spending thousands of dollars, or getting into car wrecks or having secret affairs everywhere with anyone. As i am hearing more and more bipolar II stories, finding new definitions and discussions and writings, I am landing in such a greater understanding of myself, what it is to be bipolar II, the level of confusion about the condition among professionals especially the general population.
It seems like possibly the most mysterious and misunderstood mental illness there is. One of the hardest things about it is that it is so subtle. It’s not obvious enough for most people to recognize, so that instead of being perceived as a person with a mental illness who may require some additional patience, compassion and effort, we are “off” only enough so that we ourselves suffer more than anyone else around us. At this point, I would describe it as a very internal experience of intense emotion, repeated anticlimax in life endeavors and repeated isolation. I don’t think anyone would say that they dislike me; I think people (and myself) have been overwhelmed by the intensity i bring to anything i have done; the stakes are a little too high. And, I think it has simply been hard to form lasting connections with people because i have been so inconsistent in mood — one day i am outgoing and vivacious and full of great conversation; the next, i am not answering my phone and isolating myself with work. I think that’s had a devastating effect on my ability to form relationships, which has had a similar effect on all other aspects of my well being, and ability to thrive. People haven’t been aware of my suffering because i have simply disappeared and stayed hidden until i feel better. I was never able to make sense of these two extremes in me, and always on the fence about which one i should run with. Am I strong and passionate with great ideas, talent and drive to make them happen or am i the person who feels like she is always just distracting herself from the dark and vast hollow pit of isolation that consumes me from time to time and makes me forget what the light of “day” looks like. I have felt like such a failure for not being able to overcome this aspect of me; each time I’d come out of it, I would have some revelation that would make me think i’d conquered it, only to wind up in the same place inevitably again. And again, and again, and … Every time, i felt like more and more of a failure, and more hopeless of ever escaping it.
I guess the fact is that i may not ever truly overcome it for good. Whether i choose to believe that it is solely a chemical imbalance in my brain or a deep psychological wound from my past and the cumulative effect of my life on me, the thing that i am realizing with a lot of relief is to give myself a break for not overcoming it. Even if it were the later, this has been a chronic pattern and reality in my life and it will take a great, great deal of therapy and growth over many, many years for me to over come, and that would probably be a miracle. I can’t simply wake up one day and lose all the baggage of my experiences. I could go on and on and probably get deep into the philosophical aspects of biological vs. environmental influence, and I would probably end up with the conclusion that both are true. My experiences have created a chronic chemical imbalance out of so many unfinished threads and open wounds that their effect has become almost permanent in my psyche.
Whatever the case may be, it is a relief not to beat myself up for being so emotionally damaged; to get a little more real and honest with myself and others, and live a life that is a little more realistic. Knowing that my ideas and visions can get so out of hand and my intensity can sabatauge it all and that i can come crashing down at the end of it is simply good information. It helps me to know where i need support, admit that i need it, and gives me a vocabulary and context in which to ask for and receive it.
I’m still in the aftermath of the episode that brought it all to the surface, and probably caused a little bit of further imbalance from stress and exhaustion and trauma. I don’t think i’ve ever had the time and space to simply observe myself in the context of symptoms. Without any projects, endeavors, money or ambition in my life, i am observing impulsive, compulsive activity and distraction, scatterbrain, short memory span, racing thoughts, anxiety. It’s still very difficult for me to imagine that drugs can do anything to improve this phenomenon. How can a drug change the core of my experience. I can admit that it is a new ground zero. And yes, though it has always felt new to begin again, I can appreciate that this might just be the nature of my existence and enjoy the exploration and freedom of discovery along the way. For now.
Though there are some inaccuracies in her account, I’ll post a link to Karla Dougherty’s book Less than Crazy. It confirmed for me my growing perception that a person does not have to act overtly and obviously “crazy” to be bp II. That not all mental illnesses involve psychotic behavior. That there are a cazillion different versions/experiences of bp II at the moment. That no one but “the patient” might know, and that, along with the fact that most people don’t even know that there is a bp II that is not associated with full-out mania, is maybe the most difficult thing about it.
(click on the image of the book to read a sample of the book)
Love to y’all from HJ.