I tend to identify myself first as autistic then as bipolar since I feel that the autistic part of me has always been there and the bipolar only took strong hold of me in my ’40’s. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t hold a lot of weight or importance in my life. It does. When I was first diagnosed after experiencing some horrible mania and some very low points it was a relief rather than a death sentence, so to speak. At least I knew what was wrong. I had medication to help me. But it wasn’t that great since the anti-psychotic they put me on caused me to put on a lot of extra weight. That’s the large problem with that type of drug. It slows your mind down yes, but it slows your body down as well, making you tired and not feel like exercising as much. The hard part of dealing with bipolar is balancing the mania and the depression. A lot of people mistakenly think it’s like the top and bottom of a pole with mania (or highs) at the top and depression at the bottom. What is much more realistic to describe it as, is a seismic graph with independent red and green lines for mania and depression. Both can be up at the same time, one can be up, the other down, or they can both be down. You can be experiencing manic symptoms and yet feel suicidal at the same time, in other words. Mania is so much more than just feeling high or “happy”. It’s a feeling of wanting everything to go faster. You drive faster, you get more speeding tickets. You’re super irritable. You yell at your mum for nothing. You yell at your husband for minor transgressions. You tell the cashier to hurry up and get dirty looks. You yell at your kids for not carrying in the groceries fast enough. You kick the dog for not moving out of the way fast enough. And yet, you realize it’s all going too fast. You want it to slow down but can’t. You’re on a treadmill with the button for speed on FAST and can’t just hop off and say STOP. The medication does that. It slows it all down to a reasonable pace. This is why it is so crucial for me to take my meds. every 12 hours. I take an anti-psychotic and a mood stabilizer along with other pills not related to bipolar. You sleep a solid good sleep, not a restless 4 hours then “pop, I’m AWAKE!” with mania uncontrolled. The depression felt to me like I could do nothing right. I had no friends, no hope, no courage, why bother going out, nobody wanted to see me anyhow, why bother doing anything. That’s a lot of why I put on so much weight, as well. Depression took a deep hold on me. I still find myself being negative and having to switch it up and think positively. Seeing the glass is half full.
One of my massively huge heroines in the bipolar world, in Canada, is Margaret Trudeau, the mother of our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She developed bipolar over her teenage years and it deepened with the birth of her children. She talks about it in her autobiography that I’ve read “Changing My Mind”. Her wikipedia entry is here. Her courage and bravery to step forward and speak so honestly and truthfully inspires me greatly. If she can do it, I can too. I can live my life joyfully, like she does. She truly encouraged me through her book to think of bipolar in a positive light rather than a heavy weight around my neck.
Kay Redfield Jamieson is another author who’s truly inspired me. A doctor of psychology who decided, with great courage, to step forward and announce she, herself, was bipolar in her autobiography. She was very hesitant, afraid that it would harm her academic career. Bravo to her. “An Unquiet Mind” is the name of her book. So wonderfully written and memorable. Truly a watershed moment in my life after finding out I had bipolar and how I would deal with it. I’d have her courage and grace, or try to, at least, I told myself after reading her book.
And of course, my main heroine, who I miss so much, Carrie Fisher. How in the world did she get us to laugh with her about bipolar and her ups and downs? She was a genius and a wonderful human being. I miss her dearly. I’m sure her dear daughter Billie must miss her wonderful mother so much. How difficult that must be for her to lose her mother and grandmother in the space of a day. Unspeakable loss and heartbreak.
So, please, if someone you know is living with bipolar please encourage them that it’s not the end of the world as they know it. There is life after the diagnosis. We can live life joyfully, full of rich promise and satisfaction.