Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Bipolar

In the matter concerning intimate friendships and relationships, bipolar sufferers can be at quite a disadvantage, especially when one takes into consideration that most interactions with their significant others are typically charged with heightened emotions, not to mention intense psychological espionage on the sufferer’s part (this is sadly due to paranoia and other symptoms related to bipolar disorder).  Now I am not stating that it is not possible to have a normal and healthy relationship with a bipolar sufferer.  I am merely suggesting that from a bipolar sufferer’s standpoint it can be rather challenging to keep a relationship at a level of “normalcy” for an extended period of time.  One could say our illness gets in the way in the most painful and unfortunate of ways.People desire, no need, “normalcy”.  We seek out relationships in our lives that will instill a modicum of “normalcy” in the strained and estranged relations with which we typically battle on an everyday basis.  The problem with “normalcy” is that it is all relative.  What one person sees as “normal” one day, in one situation, may not be “normal” for another, the next day, in the same situation.  We bipolar sufferers have a real problem with the concept of “normal”.  What is it really?  Is it just an idealistic concept?  Are there really people out there enjoying the actual experience of a plausible existence of “normalcy”?
You see, we can actually manage to live with an “affected normalcy” for a time. Our therapy and medications, for the most part, help to maintain and manage our symptoms and disorder.  But, to continue the façade of a finely groomed “normal” persona for an extended period of time, without allowing any of the cracks in the emotional plaster to show through the social war paint, can indeed be a truly difficult and painful task.  We may experience a “remission” of sorts of symptoms, but bipolar disorder is a life sentence, and it always comes back in one shape or another.  With it will come more than an excusable number of social faux pas, the usual inability to cope, depressions, manias, and manifestations of the disorder in a person’s physical demeanor like ticks or shaking.People don’t like these social disabilities or ticks in a person’s persona that he/she presents to the world.  If it involves work or any amount of grief on the person’s part in order to befriend someone, they quickly shy away from the party in question, especially if there is something as queer as a mental illness involved.  Oh, no, don’t get me wrong; at first it is odd and almost collectable to have a mentally off-balanced friend.  But, when reality sets in, the button for the ejector seat is almost too hard to find in the time needed to escape the emotionally awkward situation.  This is a very alienating and sharply cutting experience for a bipolar sufferer, especially when the person has worked so determinedly on keeping his/her illness from driving potential friends out of his/her social circle.  But, we have only just scratched the surface of the social quagmire that is a bipolar sufferer’s interpersonal existence of intimacies and relationships that shore up his/her emotional stability.  We haven’t really touched on the much deeper and more significant relationships.Not only does bipolar disorder challenge a sufferer’s ability to decipher his/her basic judgments on “normalcy” in a relationship, no matter the intimacy, but it can also effect the person’s own impression of reality.   This can wreak havoc on a marriage or a parental relationship.  The constant disassociation with the factual events of a situation, or the warping of reality concerning the interrelations between key members of significant core relations, can batter the resolve of all parties involved in the commitment to the integrity of those relationships.  These matters compounded by the turbulent rise and fall of a bipolar sufferer’s personality can further alienate them from their dearest and nearest. Depression takes a heavy toll on a person’s intimate relations, cutting them off emotionally from desperately needed affections, and sending them into unforgiving seclusion, where, mania can cause escalations in personal vendettas and missteps in family relations.To live the life of a bipolar personality, or the significant other of such a person, one must continually endeavor to wade through the constant bog of what that illness will throw at you, an incessantly morphing and alien terrain of mental instability.  It is a rough frontier, often rocky, with many slippery slopes.  You are frequently alone with no one else in sight but your partner, and if they are not mentally fit to forge on in the new terrain, you are often left to the wilds all on your own with the wolves seeming to howl in the distance coming ever closer and closer.  The medical establishment is becoming more and more accomplished at treating psychological disorders, but when it comes to the world of mental health, it is still a largely underdeveloped territory.  New treatments and medications are coming out as I type these letters, and they are improving as we speak, but the human brain is a highly complicated and delicate piece of anatomy.  Like the threads of an intricately woven rug, the brain is a lattice work of conscious and unconscious thought, chemicals, blood, and bio matter.  A psychiatrist must work with the brain of a sufferer on a multitude of levels.  It can be ever so frustrating, disheartening, to deal with a disorder of this nature, one that repeatedly rears its ugly head despite the progress you might have made forward in forcing it to succumb its cruel hold on the sufferer.  This process can cause many relations in a bipolar sufferer’s life to baulk at the sheer enormity of the illness, the seeming impossible odds at a “normal” life experience.

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.


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