I’ve only been posting poems for the past month, but there was a time when I also used this blog for longer pieces. I called them essays and they ranged from childhood memories to strong and sometimes obstinate opinions on this, that and everything. So if you’re looking for a poem you can stop now, because this is most certainly not a poem.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II. Before that I was ‘only’ diagnosed with recurring clinical depression. And still there’s a part of me fighting these diagnosis with teeth and nails. I feel, perhaps with a tint of hubris, that I should be able to control my brain, my brain shouldn’t control me. I try so very hard to bottle up emotions, because they are scary. I hate crying, because it’s weak, and because I always fear that I won’t be able to stop. Thankfully the suicidal thoughts have stopped, and I never actually acted on them in the past, but I never know when that longing for the peacefulness of death, for no longer having to care, will return. My history suggests that it will.
Bipolar II is a milder form of bipolar, or what used to be called manic depression. In full-blown bipolar you tend to need institutionalization during your manic episodes, and sometimes during the deepest depression too. There have been times when I’ve wished I could be institutionalized, because it would somehow allow me to let all the madness roam free… But, again, I fight those, in my mind, weak thoughts, because only crazy people need that kind of help, and I’m not crazy. In fact, if I only tried hard enough, wasn’t so lazy, so weak, I could beat this thing. That, my friends, is hubris. So, I don’t get proper full-blown manic episodes, I get what is called hypomanic episodes. Less severe, but creepy and hard to handle enough. See, I can’t even be a proper bipolar person!
I am on medication, but I am of the opinion that I should be able to control how the medication affects me. No little pill should have any effect apart from the one it’s said to have! So when my psychoanalyst burst my bubble by pointing out (about a year ago) that one of the side effects of the antidepressant I was taking was hypomania I was shocked. I was angry! Why would a pill I’m taking for depression make me hypomanic? Home I went and read up on the medication I was taking. It turns out that it could indeed induce a hypomanic state, and this particularly in patients with an underlying bipolar disorder. And a part of me was happy! This would explain, among other things, why some doctors actually questioned my depression, questioned if I was really sick when I, in my heart, knew that I was. I couldn’t handle the simplest things like personal hygiene, keeping my living space clean, washing clothes or social interactions. I had felt crushed every time a doctor questioned my illness, even when I knew full well I wasn’t really depressed. Because it had made me question myself – and I have always been my harshest judge and jury.
The medication does help, but the fact that it smooths out the symptoms and makes me less hypomanic and less depressed also leaves me constantly questioning myself. Am I just nervous or am I hypomanic? Am I just hormonal or am I depressed? And again, I should be able to control this!!! I’m not weak! I’m not stupid! Only weak and stupid people can’t handle things or don’t know what’s going on in their bodies. Only stupid people don’t recognize their own emotions! Harsh? Yes, I suppose so, but I have never before questioned my own emotions, I’ve always thought that everyone reacts the way I do. Again with the hubris, right? My psychoanalyst tells me I should try to let my emotions through, that I shouldn’t try to stop myself from crying when I feel sad. That the emotion will be there whether I let it out or not. That this is what ‘normal’ people do. And all I can think of is how small, how insignificant my problems are. There are so many people out there with ‘real’ problems. And here I sit, feeling sorry for myself! No, I have no right to feel sorry for myself! I have a good life, I’m just not doing everything I can to make it work! I’m being lazy and weak, and I hate lazy and weak!
When you become depressed, so many people will say ‘Oh, just pull yourself together! Think positive thoughts!’. I suppose it is their way of trying to be helpful, and in so many cases the words ‘I’m depressed’ are misused. My partner left me, I’m depressed! I’ve lost my iPhone, I’m depressed. I failed on a test, I’m depressed or I didn’t get the pay raise I thought I would, I’m depressed. But real depression is something completely different to that. It’s far deeper, far more overwhelming! It’s like being on the bottom of a well, at night and no light can reach you. It might mean you can’t get out of bed in the morning, not because you’re lazy and just want to stay in bed, but because it physically and mentally hurts too much for you to get up. Perhaps you can’t put your clothes on, because let’s face it, what’s the point? You may forget to eat because the hours just meld together like some weird narcotic hallucination. But mostly, for me at least, it was always the ‘what’s the point’ that got me. And the fact that I had the luxury of living in a country where I can stay on paid sick-leave for extended periods of time was both a hinderance and a help.
I suppose this is somewhat muddled, but I just really needed to unload. There is a stigma to mental illness, and even though it is getting better, so many people still live with the view that a mentally ill person is just a) lazy, b) crazy or c) faking it. Perhaps some out there are, but for those of us who aren’t I can’t tell you how painful it is to be met by disbelief or ever outright mockery! Would you mock if we had a broken arm? If we had some terminal disease (many people actually don’t survive severe depression, or the transition from a manic/hypomanic state to a depression and end up killing themselves)? Again, I’m not in too bad a shape considering. Which you’d think is a blessing, but I really, really wish my brain and I could get along without the one always questioning the other! These are all just my personal experiences and every case is somewhat different…