I have found some ways to ease the pain in my own life. I hope these pointers
are helpful if you or someone you know is suffering from bipolar.
…Some helpful tools (Part 7 of 7)
It is not always the case but on occasion I can ‘feel’ a manic or depressed episode approaching and steps are taken to divert the problem. Family is, of course, the first course of action and yet I must admit that I don’t open up too much except to my wife (she knows anyway).
Another avenue of relaxation for me when I feel an episode of mania or depression approaching is to pick up my guitar and play a song that takes me away from my mental moment. A third way is to appreciate the unconditional love poured out by my Boston Terriers. As any pet owner knows, they can transport us from our world to theirs in an immediate expression of pure love.
Another way is to read a good book or listen to music (and I do those as well) but it is the quiet measure of life and the ultimate calming effect, lifting me from the depths of depression or pulling me back to the ground and away from racing moments of mania that must happen, without fail.
Sometimes it doesn’t take very much to make me feel overwhelmed and either retreat to my own private corner where words dance in my head and none attempt to pierce my soul, or I attack the conditions that attempt to slay any sense of serenity left in my life. In the latter case I am like a one-armed soldier attempting to battle two enemies yet having no ability to protect my heart with the Aspis Shield…as, according to Homer, was employed by the heroes of the Trojan War.
Oftentimes the question arises, ‘what causes bipolar’? Over the years I have looked at various aspects of my own life as well as the lives of many whom I have encountered in group therapy. Incidentally, over the years I have seen several counselors, therapists, and doctors and as of this moment I honestly can’t say any have been helpful to any major extent, apart from providing medication. (Don’t get me wrong, all have been helpful in some way…) I have been encouraged to talk to pillows (expressing anger towards those who violated me), pinched my lip, nose, right ear and left ear (in that order) and made a teddy bear out of felt cuttings (which of all those I just mentioned was the most helpful and now that little fella is magnetized to my refrigerator.)
Prevalent trains of thought are that bipolar is a result of stress, childhood experiences and a chemical imbalance in the brain. I won’t pretend to have a definitive answer for that but I can once again offer my own experience as my guide. That which is clinical is real and that which is real becomes clinical if it spins out of control which, simply put, says bipolar is a chemical imbalance that can rest dormant for periods of time and yet a single stressful incident can become the catalyst for potential disaster.
No matter what the cause, this condition causes mood swings from extremely high to extremely low; sometimes rapidly and other times more slowly but for extended periods. Moods can be pleasant when moderate and oftentimes result in bursts of creativity but by the same token, uncontrolled spending, reckless driving, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse and so many other afflictions can emerge as a result of mania.
does death ride a black horse?
is yesterday all that matters?
can emptiness be filled with nothing?
do memories feel pain when they die?
questions are easy
answers are hard
when the mind and the heart
and the seed of hope
died in the drought
I said it before and I will say it again because it is important: depression is when the lows are so overwhelming that guilt, negative introspection, self-abuse, etc. can result and sometimes with devastating consequences. Depression is like a blanket that covers completely and suffocates entirely and can be extremely dangerous, leading to self-infliction or even suicide.
It is important to note that depression, when bipolar is involved, is far different from depression as in ‘I am depressed, I had a bad day at work.’
In my case, this cycling between mania and depression consumes me and oftentimes I spend sleepless night after night in an elevated manic state only to begin a rapid descent into the pits of depression, aka bipolar hell. The cycling and erratic mood swings are dangerous because when one is in an elevated mood heading for depression it only means that suicide could happen quicker.
All of these emotions are extreme. Everyone experiences times when they are happy or times when they are depressed, but bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain and renders the person helpless to control emotions that others could deal with. That is why medications are essential and can literally make a difference between life and death. (Trust me, I know. Thank God for lithium.) The reason I can say that bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain is simple: take my lithium away and I can quickly revert into the illogical person who sells a home on a whim, drives with reckless abandon, and listens to the voices that convincingly say I am worthless and should drive off a cliff. I am not proud to say I have done these and other despicable things, but the fact is I have.
The personal definitions I have given for mania and depression are not clinical; they are expressions of how I perceive my private demons, my ‘stairway to heaven’ and my ‘descent into hell’.
I plead for strength to be victorious in the battle that rages within me, the battle that sends a mind into the delirium of mania and so quickly into the depths of depression. I have come to understand the battle by understanding my heart and mind when I stand on that middle ground of sanity. I can only understand the battle if I know the enemy and as was once written in the cartoon Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
This is my story. I pray that yours differs from this but if there are similarities, please for your sake and the sake of your friends and family…get help! For years I ignored the signs and hid behind a mask that felt like sanity on the outside but was so unbelievably out of control on the inside that the facade almost killed me on several occasions. Don’t let that happen to you…trust me, you are worth the effort. Be kind to you, you are tailor made.
there was only shattered silence
where broken glass should have been
words already hurt like a splinter
left unattended too long
and now insults were served in a glass bowl
surrounded by daisies, carnations, and roses
red because he loved her, white because she died
he rocked in the corner
holding her picture and dying one breath at a time
life didn’t matter now that she was gone
and he counted the metric flow
of his suffocation
he sat quietly in his aloneness
and wore his loneliness like a soft jean jacket
life hurt and his white room felt safe
as he studied the bowl of insults,
nourishment for his soul
the newly shattered glass
was surrounded by daisies, carnations, and roses
red because he loved her, white because she died
he rocked in the corner and there, afraid
This is Diane, my late sister. A couple of things you need to know about Diane.
She was Bipolar I
She took her own life
For those who knew and loved her, their lives will never be the same.
I use this information as a deterrent against suicide when it is needed in my life.
It is said that “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
This concludes the seven part ‘series’ about bipolar and the effects it has on my life. There is so much more I could write about personal times of crisis but for now I will set this aside and appreciate my family, my dogs, my guitar and my life…