Being the friend of a bipolar sufferer may seem like experiencing the many faces of Eve (Eve is a woman suffering from an extreme case of Multiple Personality Disorder which is a completely separate and unrelated disease from bipolar disorder.), especially if that relationship is merely an acquaintance, not a close knit and binding type of association. (Often times I have to admit I have felt like I am being taken over by an anti-persona when I am entering a manic stage, my thought patterns twist up into darker purposes and my personality shifts deeper into the nether regions of my soul.) This is because a person suffering from bipolar disorder will most likely give one the impression of being mercurial in nature; to a casual observer he/she will be hard to fix a steadfast and lasting personality profile on. One moment a sufferer may be calm, cool, and collected. He/She may seem to have such a handle on life that it bewilders those around him/her. But, in the very next moment he/she can crumble into a scant shadow of the person he/she once was, needy and unsure of anything and everyone around him/her. Paranoia’s may eat away at his/her most solid and trusted relationships, foreign concepts of the world in which he/she resides may suddenly cause it to become skewed and bent beyond recognition.
One unfortunate consequence of my illness that I have become the victim of too many times is suffering the fallout from unstable behavior elicited from periods when I have been unable to control unhealthy urges. These compulsions manifest themselves in both my manic and depressive cycles, but the most tenacious of them are experienced in mania. I exhibit behavior that is not easy to explain to people on the receiving end. Most of the time they are left bewildered and dumbfounded by reactions and/or actions that they have no prior experience with from which to draw any reference from times shared together with me. During a high, I am driven to misuse substances that will give me the sensation of a high; my outward behavior is ostentatious and boisterous. I am possessed by a cerebral vampire with an insatiable appetite for sucking the marrow out of a person’s sentient being and a tortuous ache to appease my erotic desires. I am a freight train traveling 100 MPH and heaven help anything or anybody that should happen to cross my tracks. In a depression I have experienced tendencies of ill-mannered belligerence and highly anti-social reclusiveness. I have publicly threatened to take my life during a gathering of friends and have been promptly escorted to the nearest hospital. People, well-intentioned folk, have endeavored to visit me in hospital and met a doom spewing apathetic shadow of who I truly am.
Now, I strive to take responsibility for my behavior, no matter how ill I am. I try to own my actions because I chose to allow them to happen; whether due to the eventual weakness of spirit or will, I still did them. Somewhere along the way my conscious self gave in to the driving urge to act upon a desire, caved in on itself and said “all right I submit”. But, before I forge on, I must first describe to you what it feels like deep down within to fight these forces of instability driven desires. Perhaps, when you learn their nature you will be less likely to make a quick judgment as to how long you yourself would grapple with submission to their sway.
They come upon you as if a person has snuck up behind you and thrown a blanket over your head; they suddenly envelope you. You feel them wash over you; your body begins to ache, even in such places as the back of your arms. Your chest feels an excruciating anxiety deep within making breathing difficult. Then they whoosh through your body to settle in your stomach like a hard ball of throbbing angst. It pulsates through you, body and soul. The thoughts come beating at the doors of your consciousness, “Do this! Do it now! Ahhh, now you must!” When you try to stop them from barging into your mind, they take hold of your soul like a sharp toothed lover and take great pains to caress you just enough to get you to acquiesce. You scream within as you try to fight off their touch to your soul, the deep inner sanctum that should be yours alone. But they pounce upon your inner being and rip at your conscious will. They spin your spirit about, tear at your breath, turn your mind in and out, “will you or won’t you, …NOW?!” It is not a soft gentle touch that demurely strokes the inner reaches of your soul, not anymore, now it is a perversely erotic pull that draws a person deep into the nether reaches of their soul. It becomes seductively entrancing to succumb too; to release the pent up desires clawing their way up your insides. To struggle has become something of a pointless exercise at this time; your mind is so utterly and completely focused on grappling with your compulsions because your illness is bombarding you every waking moment. Sometimes you want to give in to your urges, to be the person you normally would not have the nerve to be; to receive the attention you never got before.”-
It is really hard for me to say whether the behavior I have exhibited during times when I have been quite unstable is truly me or not. Should I be held responsible for these actions or be excused. I believe for the most part that these behaviors were intensified manifestations of a part of my personality. It was not as if some alien life force took over my body and went amuck with my life. I feel that in a way, it was me acting in those ways, a part of me; I needed to express myself through those avenues. At the time those behaviors occurred, they were the only means by which I could properly vent my energies and/or frustrations. In other words, I purposely chose to act in that manner. But, I must also follow that statement with another; the behavior I displayed was highly affected and influenced by bipolar disorder on my thought processes.
I have lost many friends, both new and old because of their general ignorance of my disorder. The general public’s understanding and education of bipolar disorder is piteously inadequate. Many bipolar sufferer’s live in lonely seclusion because most of society does not understand the way this illness works. And, some are just not willing to take the time and care to gain the empathy one needs to show a small amount of kindness to a mentally ailing person. The unpleasantness of bipolar disorder can be overcome if we just strive to look beyond the symptoms and focus on the person inside, the sufferer not the disease. Don’t hate me because I am bipolar.