We Need to Talk About Bipolar Disorder So That You Don’t Do It Behind My Back

We Need to Talk About Bipolar Disorder So That You Don’t Do It Behind My Back

 

I remember taking an anatomy and physiology exam when I was a Sophomore in college.

I had taken a year off from nursing to get my political science minor so I entered nursing school with a group of 45 strangers, none of which particularly wanted to spend any time with me. Surprisingly, the day before, I actually got an invitation to study with some girls from class.

Looking back, I should have said no.

I was sipping on weak coffee with way too much sugar when I heard a girl’s voice dig a hole a self loathing for me that I would spend years trying to climb my way out of.

“I had a hard time remembering what a bipolar neuron was,” I heard her say. “Since the bipolar neuron is responsible for photoreceptors in the eye, I just think of someone who is bipolar, and how I never want to see them, because they’re usually an absolute mess.”

All of the girls laughed and I almost dropped my coffee cup…or smashed it over her head. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, and I wanted to be anywhere but that poorly lit cafeteria with a girl who didn’t seem to care about one of our country’s most marginalized and generalized people. Despite my better judgment, I slammed my cup on the table, gathered my things, and bailed. I left, ran into a bathroom, and cried my eyes out.

  1. When were you diagnosed? Just before I turned 19 years old.
  2. How many people are bipolar? About 3% of the American population.
  3. Did you have any idea that you were bipolar? No. I just thought I was moody.
  4. Isn’t it just an excuse to treat people badly? No.
  5. It must be nice to have meds you can take to calm you down. The rest of us have to stress. Not how it works at all, but whatever.
  6. Has bipolar been the reason for any break ups? Yes. It happens.
  7. What does bipolar II mean? It means that I’m more depressed than I am manic. I do have episodes of mania, but not as severe as those with type I.
  8. What has the disease taught you so far? People leave when things get hard.
  9. You look tired. Yeah. I am most of the time.
  10. Are you scared that if you have kids, they’ll be bipolar? Yeah. It terrifies me.
  11. A lot of patients are addicts. Have you ever been? Yes.
  12. How does it feel to be a manic pixie dream girl? I wouldn’t know. I will not be fodder for some sad young writer’s work. Don’t reduce me to a stereotype.
  13. Do you feel alone? All the time. You go through a type of emotional turmoil that’s hard to communicate and hard to find in others.
  14. Are you sure you’re not doing this for attention? 100% positive.
  15. You lost weight! Thanks! Lamictal makes me not want to eat!
  16. I wish you’d stop talking about it so much. I wish you’d stop talking about The Bachelor, but I don’t want to be rude about it.
  17. What’s gotten worse over the years? My sensitivity. My self esteem. My jealousy.
  18. What’s gotten better over the years? My understanding of emotion. My empathy. My sense of justice.
  19. What’s your biggest regret? Not getting ride of my non supportive friends sooner.
  20. You don’t seem sick. It’s mostly because I hide it exceptionally well. It tends to make people uncomfortable.
  21. What does it feel like to swing? It feels like the world has gone suddenly dark, and that everything good has disappeared.
  22. It’s not that big of a deal. I almost died from overdosing on pills because of it, so I’d say it’s a big deal.
  23. Do you have any funny mania stories? Always.

 

Thank You, Carrie.

Thank You, Carrie.

Let me preface this by saying that many celebrities have been excellent voices for mental health reform and awareness. However, as I searched for answers about life with my diagnosis, only one gave me real hope:

Carrie Fisher.

Princess Leia.

Bad ass space queen.

I found her when I googled “celebrities who have bipolar disorder.” I was desperate to find someone who was like me. Many celebrities had depression, but it was more than that. I could relate, but only for  a little while. There was no one like me: someone who had awful highs, pitiful lows, and had to make sense of the things in between. But Carrie was like me. Carrie was living proof that you could have bipolar disorder and still live a fulfilling life, finding humor in it along the way.

She was everything I wanted to be: bold, sassy, creative, and open. She didn’t shy away from the topic of her mental illness as I often did (and still do). She was open about what she felt. She talked about what her illness had driven her to do and how she was better because of it.

Carrie Fisher was truly a light in the darkness for me. She was respected, strong, hilarious, and sick; she was sick and still built an amazing life. Most of all, she never lost sight of herself in a world that didn’t quite make sense to her, one that still doesn’t quite make sense to me. When she died, I wasn’t just upset because the world lost a great woman: I was upset because my mentor was gone. Whenever I thought I couldn’t do it, I thought about Carrie. If Princess Leia can press on, so can I. I mean, she lost a planet after all.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for reminding me that there is a life to be led beyond diagnosis, a life that is not easy, just different. And that different life can be just as rewarding. If I had the opportunity to meet her when she was alive, I would just want to sit and bitch with her about medication and therapy (while I played with her dog). And I’m pretty sure she would let me. After all, her urn is a Prozac pill.

She’s my hero.

At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.

Carrie Fisher

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Short Story: The Pub

Short Story: The Pub

“I was a damn fool,” I say as I look down from his gaze, shifting my eyes to my smooth glass of Guinness. I never associated the word “beer” with “beautiful” before, but what a delightful alliteration. The darkness of the drink made the old oak bar even darker, and made Cillian seem even closer to me. His light green eyes stared into mine intently, waiting for me to explain myself.

“You’re not a damn fool, darlin’,” he’d probably say. At least, that’s what I was hoping for.

He sighed, leaning back in the old wooden chair, crossing his hands over his stomach.

“You’re a damn fool, darlin’.” Well, at least I had gotten the “darlin'” part correct. Bastard.

My head snapped up and my eyes met his in confusion and annoyance.

“I just said that so you could convince me otherwise!” I retorted, sinking back into my chair, blowing a strand of my honey blonde hair out of my eyes. Cillian took delight in my agitation and began to chuckle.

“Now that’s some damn movie dramatics,” he said. “No person actually huffs hair out of their eyes.”

“Well, I do,” I quipped. I gulped down some of my beer, squinting my eyes as the liquid molasses went down my throat.

“Too bitter?” Cillian inquired. “Bitter beer for a bitter gal.” There was laughter dancing in that Irish brogue of his.

“Will you stop?!” I exclaimed, completely exasperated.

“Never, my sweet Lily, and you want to know why? You wrote letters to that bastard for a month after he left and moved to Cork with that Scottish tart.”

I sunk even lower into my chair, another strand of my hair falling into my face. Eyes crossed, I gazed at it. Of course he was about talking Asher, but I didn’t want to hear another word about my pathetic crusade to win him back. Sunlight, Asher used to call my hair…it was like touching sunlight.

But that, of course, was before he left me on a rainy street in Dublin, fleeing with some bar bimbo. I hear they eloped. So it goes, Vonnegut would say.

And here I am, with Cillian McCoy, in some country pub discussing the demise of my relationship. Cillian could see the self pity on my face. He knew he felt sorry, underneath that impossibly annoying joking exterior.

“Bring us another round, aye, Danno?” Cillian asks the man behind the bar. The old man has kind eyes and a subtle smile.

“So it goes, then,” Cillian sighed. “Or some Vonnegut shit like that. My brother was the damn fool, breaking your heart. And for that I am sorry.”

Oh. He’s smarter than he looks.

296.89 Project #2: What About Laura?

296.89 Project #2: What About Laura?

Loneliness. 

One of the most dangerous emotions I feel, if not the most dangerous. Being an extrovert, I need human interaction or I suffer.

I’m focusing on self portraits and taking one shot photos of what I look like in a swing: no posing, no retakes. Just my face. You never realize how much a facial expression can tell you.

Chapped lips: I forget to drink water most of the time. 

Unkempt appearance: I think I’ve stopped caring at all. 

Furrowed brow and wider eyes: Deep, aching sadness. 

Droopy eyes and dark circles: I’ve kind of hit a wall. 

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Music recommendation: In Collusion with The Waves by Seas of Years

Film recommendation: “What About Bob?” starring my hero Bill Murray