I have tried, over the years, to use my writing as a means to tangibly define and describe what it “looks” like to have major mental illness. I am told that I am sometimes adept at doing that, but rather more often, I fear, I fall short. Sill here I sit, yet again, virtual pen in hand, making another attempt.
I have recently come back to asking myself why I write. It is a committed task, and it causes me to have to expose parts of my inner world I would normally not share. In fact, I would venture to posit that I tend to share more in my writing with those I have never encountered than I usually do with the most intimate relationships in my life. It is just the way my personality type works. I make myself accountable to my writing, which ensures I am most authentically myself when writing.
That does not mean I am inauthentic with those in my life; it’s just that we are working on the business of living, and there is not often time for the deep introspection that produces what I write. So, today when I write about yet another component of my illness and how it manifests in my life, it will be as new to those I encounter on a very intimate level every day as it is to those I have never met.
This morning has been rough. I have no current reason to be so very sad. My being is bruised, and though my life has had some very devastating recent losses, this morning seems an odd occasion to be so very broken.
The bipolar mind is unique in that it tends to not have so many rooms to it. Walls that exist to allow control and compartmentalization of meaning that is applied to what the senses encounter get demolished with the first psychotic break. What that means for those who endure with the illness is when something happens, it is ushered into the mind and there it sits in that open chamber, reverberating and expanding.
A single emotion for a person who is not bipolar, say sadness procured while watching a death occur in a movie, will not necessarily dissipate for the bipolar mind as it most likely will for a person not so afflicted. So, when I watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Yondu dies, I cry. Then I go to bed and I wake in the morning with Yondu still dying and Quill suffering. Then, I read in my morning reading, of an individual losing his pet, and I am undone; hysterical.
Never mind that I have so many great things going in my life. Never mind that I am loved, that MY pets are whole. Never mind that this is a serious over exaggeration! I am simply unable to step away from the sadness, and that is why I must be very careful what I am allowing into my mind.
It’s not that things are bad; it’s that they are not necessarily good for me at certain times. I am vulnerable already from other sad things, but I am also vulnerable because I had a beautiful time with a friend at lunch yesterday, someone whom I love dearly and rarely see. I am vulnerable because I have family here to visit and I’m overwhelmed with the pleasure of seeing them. I am overwhelmed because I have a husband who is kind and good to me when I am neither.
These are all good things, right? So what is my problem?
Well, my brain does not always recognized things as good or bad in terms of impact. Things get ushered into the main theater of my mind, and it does not matter whether they are positive or negative. What matters is that they have a tremendous emotional impact, and once introduced, they reverberate continually, filling up my mental space until I’m completely overwhelmed.
I have a little dog named Dexter. People in my life make fun of me because I baby him, and I treat him like a child, but I have reasons. Dexter knows my emotional status before I do. He is every bit as vital to my ability to function on a daily basis as is the lithium I take every day. I do not know how I survive the very devastating sadness visited on my life regularly, especially when I begin the descent out of mania into depression, without him.
Dexter comes to me, climbs up in my lap, and he comforts me. He doesn’t care if I’m neurotic. He doesn’t care that I’m nasty and prickly. He is not concerned about conversations and actions I should have done differently with people. He could care less whether I’m completely in control or under-performing. He only cares that I’m upset. He loves me with his entire little being. He has the ability to recognize when I’m about to go down and will attempt to comfort me even before I malfunction.
So, if I am too protective of that little dog; if I tend be a bit paranoid with him and how he is treated, it’s because I am fully aware how many times he has pulled me away from that chaos in the open room of my mind; back to a little corner where he just comforts me by sitting in my lap, resting his head on my chest as he looks into my eyes.
I know how much he needs me, and in past years, he has been my reason for not following through on an action that would have been a permanent fix for a temporary state of mind. Sounds silly, but it is what it is. I do not try to apply rationale to mental illness. I just take what I can get to work, and I’m thankful for it; just a it more of what it “looks” like.