Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Bipolar World

               I’ve stood staring into the misty abyss. I know what it’s like balance precariously on the precipice of insanity, one small step from total destruction. Yet I have always managed to back down. I’ve pulled myself back, never crossing that dark threshold. But no sooner have I saved myself than I rocket in the opposite direction, uncontrollably scaling the mountain of emotions. The peak seems so near. I can’t control myself. I’m moving at a thousand miles an hour. My thoughts dash in and out of my mind. It is the most wonderful feeling, the polar opposite of that dark, foggy chasm. And then I tumble from the peak back down.

                That’s what I deal with. That’s what it’s like being bipolar. The constant cycling back and forth, moving from one end of the insanity spectrum to the other. It’s difficult to describe to someone what being Bipolar feels like. I try hard to describe the emotional highs and depraved lows. It’s important for everyone to understand what this disease does to those who suffer from it and what they can do. So I speak to you from the edge of insanity and relate to you my experiences.

                I was diagnosed seven years ago. However in retrospect I can identify the symptoms beginning much earlier. Melancholy slowly squeezed my soul while I was in college, certainly not as severe as it would become, but there nonetheless. The sun would then rise on another set of feelings. I would be able read (my favorite activity) for hours on end, with little sleep. School seemed to breeze by. And then anger would burst forth from this high. I remember being cut off by a terrible driver on my way home from school and completely losing my mind. I screamed at the driver, tailgating them for over a mile, horn blaring. When I got home, I was suddenly overcome with guilt, and then I felt lousy again. I simply felt this was the normal way of things. It never occurred to me that something was actually wrong.

                Things went on like this for several years. I graduated from college and got accepted to law school. The first year of classes was challenging, I wasn’t used to having to expend so much energy to achieve the results I wanted. But my highs seemed to coincide with the times I needed to get the most work done, allowing me to be as productive as I could be. The trouble began in the second semester of my second year. I remember it like it was yesterday. The depression blanketed me like it had done many times before. Only this time the shroud didn’t lift. In fact it pulled tighter, suffocating me with dark thoughts. A week went by and nothing changed. I hadn’t shaved, only taken a few showers. It was all I could do to even rouse myself from my bed. I wanted to die. I could picture the world without me, and it would be a better place. Forget about schoolwork, I couldn’t even function. This sort of depression is difficult for someone who has never experienced it to grasp. It isn’t like the sadness that manifests itself when your pet dies or you miss out on a job opportunity. It cuts deeper. Enveloping you entire mind, you cannot escape it. With typical sadness, you can distract yourself with hobbies and friends. With depression nothing can save you. Activities that once saturated you with pleasure seem colorless. No amount of positive thinking can help you escape from the darkness.

                I needed help and my family knew it. An appointment was made for my physician. I showed up on time, haggard but somewhat presentable. I told him how I felt and he handed me some antidepressants. I was to take a pill every day and I should begin to feel better. I had nothing to lose, and I certainly wouldn’t question what my doctor said so I went away with several sample boxes of pills and a prescription.

                I thought everything was going to be OK, that things would finally settle down and be normal. But alas, that was not to be. The pall of gloominess dissipated and for a few days I felt emotionally neutral. Maybe the pills were working. But suddenly things sped up. My thoughts began to race, my pace began to accelerate. Ideas, concoctions of money making schemes and novel inventions resounded through my mind. I felt as though I could solve all the world’s problems if only given the chance. I devoured books, on any topic: classical literature, modern history, anything really. I bought things; my credit card began to see its available credit dwindle substantially. Sleep was reduced to several hours a night because I need the time during the day to plot my next fabulous idea. To anyone else, all this seemed grandiose, figments of a creative imagination. But I knew better. To me it was real. I could do anything.

                Then it happened again. The rage returned. I became frustrated. Fire engulfed the exuberant thoughts that bounced through my head. Everything was falling apart again. The pills weren’t working. The oscillating cycle kept going.

                I knew I needed to see a doctor, someone that specialized in this sort of thing. I never really thought of myself as crazy, but my judgment was edging closer and closer to it each day. So I went to a psychiatrist. I felt awkward as I entered the office and sat in the anteroom. I didn’t know what to say. My depression was certainly going to be a topic, but what about the highs? The periods were I felt invincible? Finally the door opened and I was greeted with a warm smile and invited into the office. I sat down, still a bit nervous. After a brief introduction he asked me to describe what was wrong and took a detailed family history. I related the troubling bouts of melancholy that had torn me apart, and this time added narcotic like experiences to my roster of problems. I shouldn’t behave that way and I knew it. I loved the feeling the “ups” gave me, but hated the inevitable crash that followed it, the anger, guilt, and depression. I needed help. And thankfully I was able to procure some. That was when I discovered Bipolar Disorder.

                Suddenly the highs and lows made sense in that context. Everything that had transpired made sense. The void of ignorance was filled. My doctor and I took me off the antidepressants and came up with a new treatment plan, with medications that targeted this specific disorder. We agreed to continue therapy to help wade through the murky waters that covered my life experiences when taken over by the disease. And it helped.

                Being in control now I can stand tall and see all the signs and notice all the problems I had. But when experiencing them I was in the dark, hopeless and without a guiding light. It is my desire that I can now give a voice to those with Bipolar Disorder, that I can address their concerns and give them answers.  Going forward into the future, this is where you can find an outlet for our disease.

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