Looking at Myself – And You (#1)

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Can it ever be said you really know yourself?

Many say that since a person changes from minute to minute, they are always in the process of learning and understanding themselves.

Hi, I’m bipolar.  Nice to meet you.  And me.

Weird.

Hence this blog.  I need to have a better understanding of myself and others and since I love to write it only makes sense that I put  this process down in a way that I’m comfortable with.  Maybe even show other people where to go to learn more about bipolar disorder.  Maybe come closer to understanding what’s come to be a way of life, whether or not I like or approve of it.  It is what it is.

Since this is the first entry, let’s begin at the beginning.  To be frank, there isn’t one.  I mean there is, but damned if I can find it.  I’ve searched many years to find one particular thing that caused this disease to rear its ugly head.  I wish the answer were simple, but it isn’t.  I believe the beginning is loss.

Something that everyone experiences brought me to despair and constant thoughts of suicide.  It caused me to lose myself as well as my way of life in its peripheral senses, such  as my home, my relationships, my job and my belongings.  My disability wasn’t apparent when it began.  It just seemed that everything flew out of my hands and away from me.  My universe became desperation and confusion and I had no way to make sense out of any of it.  It took away my health because the stress of loss became the only center of the universe and I was helpless to stop the landslide.

I came away from that loss with only one possibility – take my own life and stop the unending pain.  If I flung myself away from my own self-hatred, from my own desperation, then perhaps I could find some peace and stop the spinning.  If I took my life then no one would have to worry about me; they could move on with more constructive things like their own lives and concerns and stop saying, Oh, that poor man.  It would be a great relief for me to know that I was no longer a burden to those around me.  My soul would be free of the chains, free of the gigantic pressure, able to simply stop the constant worry, anxiety and fear.

It seemed at the time to be the solution that made the most sense — even if it was the most self-centered, selfish and myopic solution I could come up with.

Okay.  People who believe they think rationally and without emotion as the center of reasoning may scoff and say of course, how ridiculous of you!  Aren’t you just being an emotional extremist?  Aren’t you missing something?  Isn’t there something very wrong with you to think that way?  Just stop it!  Man up.  What the hell is wrong with you?  You can beat this all by yourself, you don’t need help.  You’re just imagining things.

The hell I am.

What it is, well, it’s something that I never thought it could be.  In the past I was full of life — vivacious, for want of a better word.  I was the center of a group of friends, the hub of the wheel, throwing myself into everything I did with an incredible amount of energy.  I was capable, happy and productive.  I was making things happen for myself and others.  I was going places.  I had pretty much everything I wanted.

Yeah, right.  Going places.  Right down the goddamn chute.

So, what was it that I did not know?  What life lesson had I not learned?  At the ripe old age of 48, what was it that I needed to know that would have kept me intact and away from despair?  Why did I not understand and see the danger that this disease would do to me?

Simple.  I never saw it because I had no idea that it existed and that I suffered from it all along.  There was no warning that I understood, no alarm that went off in my head.  My life was going along just fine, thank you, until my incredible ignorance led me to the path where all things were lost, where all things that mattered to me fell through my fingertips and, with few exceptions, everyone that I cared about was either lost or turned their backs.

I became, bit by bit, unable to function in the most basic ways.  I screamed inside.  I imploded.  I sank into grief, succumbed to fear, loathed myself and hated everything and everyone, myself most of all.

The dawning realization did not come for quite some time.  In fact, it took more than six years of psychotherapy, medication, medical attention, partial hospitalization and most of all incredulous amounts of work before I came to understand even the bare beginnings of what was the beginning.

And after all that time and work I find that this is the beginning.  I now understand that my thinking was and is distorted and needs re-tooling.  I know now that the brain of which I was so proud, my brain, is its own worst enemy and needs not only retraining but lifelong work and effort just to be – as much as I despise the word — normal, whatever that is.

I’ve kept a journal ever since I received the diagnosis of being bipolar.  It’s been a remarkable journey over the last few months and it’s a journey of healing, of frustration, of triumph and most of all of learning.  I want to share this journey with others so that if even one person learns about bipolar disorder, just one, then it will be a great day for me.  And most especially, for them.

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(You need to learn more about bipolar disorder.  Just to go the National Alliance on Mental Illness and find out more about mental illness, how you can help and where to go if you need help.)

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