Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bipolar Like Us

What's it like being diagnosed as Bipolar II? Imagine you're going through a particularly rough period in your life and you have these two asshole roommates who are at your place all the time.

Bipolar II is a tricky rascal to diagnosis. What distinguishes it from Bipolar I is the absence of Bipolar I's trademark mania.

Because the Bipolar II spectrum only reaches hypomania, a mood state characterized by increased energy, productivity and confidence, it's often mistaken for simple high-functioning behavior.

Mania wants to fly to Vegas, rob a Casino, and start a high-speed police chase. Hypomania would rather work quietly and efficiently on a home improvement project or screenplay.

Hypomania's my jam. For
me, it shows up like a childhood friend on your front porch who asks "Want to ride bikes?" The world feels like it's on your side when you're hypomanic. It roots for you, shows you possibilities and connections. It's influenced my writing in ways I'll probably never fully understand. And I'll admit, now that — medically speaking — my next years will be devoted to not experiencing this sensation again, there's a part of me that feels like I'm taking the blue pill

But since I'm being honest, there's an equal part of me that recognizes the destructive path that Bipolar II has walked through my life. I see it in all the risks I've taken, all the opportunities I've lost, all the people I've hurt. 

And while my diagnosis was a series of personal and profound "a-ha" moments for me, I also had to understand how relatively little it meant to the rest of the world. My college Dean didn't call to personally apologize and cancel my student loans. "Again, we're terribly sorry for the mix-up, we'll be refunding your payments over the years and sending a fruit basket." There wasn't a steady stream of ex-boyfriends calling to apologize and admit that I was in fact right about any outstanding or unresolved fights. The Daily Show didn't immediately contact me to book a guest appearance. "As a hero and an inspiration, ho
w do you do it?" I mean, they still have time, they're a busy show.

Immediately following my diagnosis, I felt an overwhelming elation. Anyone who's struggled with mental health issues knows that just being able to put a name, any name, to what you're experiencing is a victory in itself. 
Yes! My crazy is recognized by the APA! In your face universe! But these roommates have needs: medication management, individual therapy, group therapy, mood charts, sleep hygiene. Mental health can feel like a mountain that you have to climb. But I hear the view from the top is worth it.

"No one can tell what goe
s on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.

Or you don't."

~Stephen King, The Stand

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