Brain Filter note: This was our first foray into talking about mental illness on our main blog. Angela was very brave here. Unfortunately things only got worse from here.
I’ve confessed things on here before, but this is an actual thing. In case you didn’t know it, I’m bipolar. It’s not as bad as a lot of people think, but it does make life, well, interesting.
To be honest about it, you can probably tell by blog posts when I’m having manic time. Things like this happen. Or I don’t write at all because I can’t trust what I might say, or it is too rambling for anyone to have to read. We just don’t have enough readers to risk alienating people.
When I’m manic, I get a lot done. It’s unfocused sometimes, but sometimes it can be useful. I’ve cleaned the kitchen to the point of taking a toothbrush to the underside overhang of the granite counter top. That may have been a little too much, but the kitchen was very clean. I’ve cooked all day for days at time to freeze things to eat later. I’ve had really great ideas of what to cook but been totally unable to focus enough to cook anything. Along the same vein, I’ve thought about things to cook, but then by the time I get around to doing it, I can’t remember what it was.
It also makes for interesting writing. If I’m not just writing for me, I have to keep that rambling instinct from coming through (I’m lucky enough to have Paul to edit me). Sometimes I let it come through enough to be humorous, and that’s ok. That’s just the way I am. Sometimes writing is very difficult because I get ideas on what I want to write about, but I get too many ideas, and then, just like with cooking, nothing gets done.
I do write a lot when I’m having happy fun manic time. I can crank out 5 1,000 word short stories in a single day. I can get huge chunks of larger works done. (If you’re actually interested in what I’m working on, shoot me an email, but we’re not going to talk about it on here.) I don’t sleep; it’s not that I don’t need to, but I really can’t. I’ve gotten to be great friends with sunrise. I’ve stayed awake much longer than 24 hours. Paul and Patric can tell pretty easily when that’s happened even though I do always say, quite honestly, that I’m not sleepy and I’m ok.
Then there are the bad parts. So many things come into my head that my head actually hurts. My tinnitus turns into background music (never good music, though) that only I can hear. Lights seem to dim and then brighten again. When I close my eyes, I see patterns behind my eyelids that look almost like letters, and I would be able to read them if I could just get my eyes lined up right. I know this is not good, and I am working with my doctor on getting these things under control.
But just like with the manic parts, the depression parts of this tend to go a little too far. I don’t cook, not because I can’t focus well enough to cook one thing, but because I can’t make myself get motivated enough to get up and make anything. There are times when it actually seems pointless to cook. I either don’t sleep again, or I sleep too much (16 hours solid has happened). The thoughts don’t come into my head at all, and writing is very hard. I have to try not to be melodramatic; I have been known to actually cry when I write something that wouldn’t normally get to me. Of course, I can also cry just because I’m breathing.
When I’m on the depression end of the spectrum, I don’t care about much of anything. I don’t care about the fact that I don’t cook, don’t clean, don’t watch TV, don’t write much, don’t get out of bed even if I’m awake. The cats don’t get fed as often as they would like; the dogs end up spending more time in their kennel than they deserve; Paul and Patric end up fending for themselves. My productivity goes from 150% to about 5% on my good depression days. Less than zero on my bad days.
I’m luckier than some. Paul understands and will talk me down into sleep when the mania is bad. He will get me to get up and at least shower when the depression is kicking my butt. Patric sees the signs. He will say that sometimes I’m more fun when I’m manic. (He doesn’t so much care for it when it gets to toothbrush cleaning the kitchen level, though.) If I’m depressed, he makes real efforts to cheer me up.
The point of this is not to ask you to excuse it when there are dry spots in blogging here. It’s not to make you feel sorry for me–I don’t need or want sympathy. I talk about this because I’m far from the only person out there who goes through this to one degree or another. While I’ve told you what it feels like for me, it’s honestly a very personal experience; some people may have some of the experiences I go through, some may have none.
Those of you who don’t go through it or personally know someone who’s been willing to talk about it, can possibly understand a little better about why a co-worker, friend, relative, or someone you deal with on a regular basis isn’t always the same. I wouldn’t recommend that you try to talk to them about it; if they haven’t talked to you on their own, they may not feel comfortable with it. Or that may not be what’s going on with them at all. But it’s not always something that they can help. It’s not always even something they’re always aware of–I didn’t know that’s what had been going on with me for a long time until earlier this year.
Just don’t make assumptions. If someone does talk to you about it, even elliptically, understand that it doesn’t mean they’re crazy. It doesn’t mean that you should stay away from them or push them out of your life. Sometimes we can be difficult to deal with, but there are rewards. We tend to be creative people. We tend to be interesting. We tend to take on careers and projects that make us stretch our minds. We really are just like you.