I spend so much time being friends with my mental illness and staying positive amidst the chaos it brings into my life, that sometimes I invalidate my own emotions toward being bipolar. I force myself to forget the worst parts of it and to push away how I actually feel. But I do allow myself these purging moments once every few weeks where I let myself cry and cry and hate this genetic glitch that has ruined so many parts of my life, ruined me. And when I let myself fully feel all of my anger and fear, it is startling to realize that I have so much hatred toward something intimately a part of me. In those moments there are lots of intangibles and spectrums of emotions I could never put into words, but a lot of my anger and hatred toward bipolar rests in what it has stolen from me.
The most obvious is the years of potential when my first major depression episode set in at the end of college. Looking back on what should’ve been these amazing semesters in my favorite upper div major classes turned into sleeping through lectures and missed assignments and quitting my youtube channel and all my time spent toward studying but even my best being failing grades. Then there are years of these beautiful memories of friendships and family that are just gone, complete blanks for months and months at a time and the inability to recall things when trying to remember. Even while medicated, I continue to have these extreme memory lapses and often feel like the people closest to me are strangers.
But the fractured identity part gets me the most, how I often feel like a stranger to myself. After recovering my personality and interests and sense of self when healing from depression, the reality of my bipolar diagnosis setting in made me realize that a lot of humanity has been permanently taken away from me, because I can no longer trust my own emotional realities. I can no longer trust myself. It’s a warranted and necessary invalidation, a constant invalidation. And for me its survival.
When I’m slightly depressed verses hypomanic verses balanced on meds my perspectives on situations and emotions toward something or someone can completely change. As in, polar opposites. But this manifests in a type of self deception, because it is through seemingly rational logic proofs. What I think I want, who I think I love, what I believe I’m passionate about— there can be little continuity as I switch between mood phases and it’s a constant battle within myself to discern what parts are fully me. What’s even worse is that emotions from when I am in depression of doubting someone or doubting myself get brought into my normal reality as well. Depression can completely lie to me and convince me something it wants me to believe is true, but once I’m out of depression that stays with me and can never be fully unraveled from what I believe. When there are the strongest impulses, intuitions, emotions, even audible voices in your own head it is difficult to ever fully separate that from you.
What’s even worse is the lack of stability in my different realities. Bipolar constantly changes in how it manifests. So it is not as simple as manic self, normal self, depressed self— and just switching between. My experience in depression now verses six months ago is completely different. Same with mania. And then a few symptoms from mania can become intermixed in depression and create a brand new type of reality called a mixed episode. And again, what mixed episodes are for me is always changing. There’s little continuity in my daily experience of how it feels to be me and there never will be.
My emotions mean nothing to me anymore. In regards to guiding me toward truths about myself or how I understand love or the way I find motivation. Instead, I think of things in terms of logic proofs and what I can determine to be objective. In college, determining my philosophical beliefs on various things in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and free will was so important to me in retaining a sense of calm, because in our analytical philosophy department there was no room for gray area. Constantly changing my philosophical and theological beliefs to get in line with the closest thing I could determine to be objective truth provided a rare reality to my life and I took it very seriously. Being infused in a post-modern culture that constantly denies objectivity, trading it in for relativism, is something that angers me and even feels like a personal attack; for years I have debated friends and changed many people’s minds to believe in objectivity. For most people, they can be certain that most of their daily experiences and thoughts within themselves are this objective perception and emulation of themself, for me I can never be sure.
Detachment is a word I’ve come to despise. Emotional detachment. I routinely force myself to be emotionally detached from myself, intentionally zooming out from my own emotions and subtly invalidating and questioning my experiences, never certain that my reactions and assessments and emotions are real. I’ve had experiences of a sudden onset of extreme anxiety, overwhelming physical stress, paranoia or these intense crying spells that are related to nothing and mean nothing. Detaching myself from these meaningless extremes is comforting and necessary for me to survive and feel less crazy within this.
But when detachment is forced on me within a relationship, it is hell. What feels like a war zone ensues in my mind. It is the feeling of suddenly losing all romantic interest and attraction toward the person you are with. For me it is stronger than a dull apathy and more like white blood cells trying to kill and destroy something invading me. The person closest to me suddenly feels like a stranger and someone I don’t want to be with. The shock feels like being Lucy on 50 First Dates or one of the characters in Freaky Friday— confusion and not feeling connected to all the previous memories and experiences of the relationship. Breaking up during this detachment period remains the norm for bipolar relationships and certainly contributes to the 90% divorce rate. Everyone has inner dialogues and debates within themselves, but in detachment mine seems to be an entire self taking over my brain—trying to steal away my happiness—my actual self tangled up within and fighting so hard for control, trying not to drown and give in to all the impulses to break up the relationship.
Processing that I am bipolar is the awareness that every relationship I will ever be in will feel chaotic. I will sometimes feel extremely unwanted and rejected just because I’m in depression. I will go from feeling the relationship is perfect to needing to immediately get out— and it will happen overnight—like a switch going off in my brain. My perception of the relationship will be chaotic, regardless of how healthy and peaceful it is. Relationships require some amount of emotional discernment in choosing to be with someone, choosing to stay or leave and as someone with bipolar I lack the ability to ever trust my emotions as being fully mine. Saying “I love you” is not emotional for me at all but more a promise of actions regardless of how I feel, a promise to stay even when it means fighting within myself and denying myself the craving of full-blown mania.
Bipolar is the best and worst part of me. It is a curse and a gift and this constant ride of overwhelming extremes of being human. I couldn’t imagine myself without the extremes and when I’m perfectly medicated I even miss the chaos. Writing everything down helps me to remember and discern truths about my world and through that I analyze and analyze and analyze and when everything still ends up being contradictions, I’m grateful this has forced me to be more inquisitive in doubting and questioning what is true. Everyone could probably do better at debating themselves and analyzing their emotional experiences and although I wouldn’t wish anyone to have my war-zone level chaos, I understand that having my sense of self constantly severed and rocky and stolen allows me this rare advantage of constant reinvention and this gravitation toward always changing myself and my beliefs.