Read part 1 of this series here.
Of all the people I've had to break the news to that my personality is so terrible it's classified as a mental disorder, nobody has really handled it too well.
When I was diagnosed a year and a half ago, most of my friends at the time took that as an opportunity to never talk to me again unless absolutely forced to in public situations. My family had no idea how to handle it, understandably. Nobody really knows how to deal with it. They don't write manuals on this kind of stuff (just kidding, they do, but the manuals suck and nobody reads them).
I have noticed one thing, though: a sign of whether someone is gonna stick around is if they ask me what it's like to be bipolar. This seems so simple and trivial, yet it is the one common reaction of every loyal friend I've ever told. TThe people who ask questions instead of just staring at me uncomfortably are the people that want to understand-and are those who have always been there and will hopefully continue to be there.
But what do I say to that? Where to even begin? Trying to sum up everything that is wrong with me in a few sentences is like trying to study without Adderall: not a pleasant sight and definitely not something I want to do. I've never really known exactly how to answer that question. Until today.
Today is my 19th birthday. Yesterday I went to bed excited to wear a new outfit, to open presents, and to spend a fun day with friends. Today I woke up pretty bummed out. I was hit with an unexpected wave of grief because I missed my mom. I thought about how I'd never be able to call her on my birthday. She passed away almost four years ago, and every holiday is just a little bit sad ever since.
But where most people could simply acknowledge the fact that it is sad and move on, I cannot. I process emotions a little differently. Here's a metaphor to explain: a "wave of grief" to you might mean a little tide washes over your toes. A wave of the same amount of grief to me would mean getting knocked down by a tsunami and swallowed up into the ocean.
So, I cried, but because I was determined to have a good day, I wiped away my tears and blasted my music. I got ready for class, and danced around the house instead of wallowing in self-pity. I sang Justin Bieber with my roommate and we laughed at my terrible singing voice.
Then I got a call from one of my mom's friends. We talked for a long time. It reminded me of the phone call I so badly wanted from my mom that when we hung up, I started crying again. But it wasn't the type of crying I had done earlier; it was more of a happy and reminiscent cry. A moment of sweet remembrance. I thought about how lucky I am to have people looking out for me, just like my mom did.
As I was getting into round two of the water works, I went to the bathroom to finish getting ready and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I couldn't help but laugh at myself and how quintessentially bipolar I was acting. In a matter of less than an hour I had cried, laughed, danced, cried again, then laughed because of the crying.
You might be thinking about those friends I mentioned earlier that disappeared the second I uttered the word "bipolar" to them, and how you can't blame them after hearing what a typical morning entails for me. Or maybe you think I'm just human and what I just described isn't even that bipolar of me. I would say that both of you are kinda right. I mean, compared to the psychosis, mania, paranoia, delusions, anxiety, severe mood swings, and depression I've experienced in my life, today I am pretty damn stable.
Or maybe, just maybe, you're one of the 2.6 percent of people also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since you're bipolar, I am not even going to try to guess what you're probably thinking or what's going on in that messed up little brain of yours. No offense.
What I will say to you 2 percenters is that after I got done laughing (after crying after laughing after crying), I finished getting ready, took my happy (but not too happy) pills, grabbed my backpack, and went off to class. I went back to my normal 19-year-old life.
On my way to class, I thought about the friends who had asked what it was like to be bipolar. I thought about how from here on out I would tell this story to anyone who wants to know what it's like to be have bipolar disorder. I thought about the doctor who told me that I would never have a normal life again, who said that college would probably not be possible.
I thought about how the reason I cried in the first place earlier that day was because this is the first birthday of mine since my mom passed where I can honestly say that she would be proud of me.
I thought about those friends that didn't stick around, and how much they were missing out on, and how lucky I am to have other people in my life that will always be just a phone call away.
I thought about all the numb people out there. Those who don't have highs or lows, who don't cry or laugh, who have been shut out to feeling the wide spectrum of emotions that I have the ability to feel. I decided that I would rather feel too much than not at all. I had just had my heart broken with the pain of losing the one I loved most, laughed until my stomach hurt with my best friend in the entire world, and cried after feeling the comforting presence of my mother, all before breakfast. Maybe my ability to feel everything so deeply is a sort of superpower that allows me to appreciate the good, learn from the bad, and connect with others along the way.
So if you're part of that 2.6 percent of the population that is like me, here is some living proof that you can have a normal life with bipolar disorder, something we're not told is possible nearly enough. What I would've done to have heard a story like this one during some of my darkest hours.
If you've never been diagnosed with a mental illness, you probably are ready for this whack-job to wrap up the blog post. But this story is just as important for you as it is for those struggling. Because statistically speaking, the chances of someone you know telling you they have a mental illness are astounding. And while you might be afraid, or judgemental, or not quite able to understand exactly, don't stop asking what it's like. Don't stop trying to understand.