Everyone has mood shifts – it’s part of human nature – but living with a mental illness means that for the rest of my existence, my mood will be like a beautiful (yet potentially dangerous and deadly) wild animal. I do more work than anyone in my life can imagine, to tame the beast and manage my mood. I felt, for a lot of my life, that I had demons within. No. I was battling bipolar disorder and had no idea.
I have made the choice to find joy, love, healthy connections with others, and happiness.
I have friends who are stuck where I was, for years – after I was diagnosed (my handful of diagnosis). I was relieved while feeling stuck in it; this was just who I was and used them as an excuse and rationalization for my bad behavior in past, present, and future.
I would be telling a sick tale to my friend Kat, and she would give her usual “Oh Geez!” In delight I would respond, “I’m bipolar, it’s okay.” On the other side of the pendulum, I would stay in bed for weeks crippled with suffocating anxiety and deep black depression and say, “I can hide here under the covers as long as I like because I’m cursed with this mental disorder.”
If you aren’t aware of mental illness, I would recommend you do a little research. Bipolar and depression are interesting animals, and a lot more of us suffer constant attacks, than you can image. We don’t just get sad or energetic – but we have a shift in our brain chemistry and science still doesn’t fully understand it.
Someone with true depression has an almost complete shut off of the chemicals that produce happiness. It’s not just a matter of saying “cheer up.” Our brains have cut off happiness at a chemical level. It’s like telling someone who is out of gas to speed the car up as it sputters to a dead stop and all electrical functions of the car die out with a dead battery.
Someone who is manic is flooded, according to mentalhealth.net, in the core of the brain with several neuron transmitters – including dopamine, serotonin, and MDMA. The same chemicals released from a handful of illegal drugs (that coincidentally were my choice of drugs. Not a coincidence, as I continue to research).
I am high as a kite. I feel as though I have taken small hits of meth, cocaine, and ecstasy at once. For days or weeks or a month at a time. When I used to induce mania – I was relapsing in my addiction recovery – because I knew mania made me high. This typically led to a full relapse, because another one the beasts I battle is addiction and alcoholism.
At the end of the article, there are actual brain scans of someone who is “normal,” manic, and clinically depressed – to show what happens to brain activity.
Then I thought I just needed meds to set me right. I JUST had to get the meds right. But we learned in the (several dual-diagnosis treatment centers that I have been to) that meds are a small piece of the pie. That we must work to manage our illness. I did not. I took the meds and suffered horribly for a few more years. I had no joy and did not want to live. I tried in a number of ways to make that happen.
I believe that anyone that has identified traits and cycles, that are unhealthy, can change them. The brain can be rewired and our thought patterns can be changed. It takes time and work, but is happening for a once hopeless and dreamless case like me. I believe that almost everybody can make the choice to find joy and happiness, and find it from within.
Now, I work to stay spiritually connected. I also am constantly reading books, online articles, and belong to several support groups – to see what works for others. I experiment, I read books on co-dependency, shame, recovery, and being healthy. I exercise, I’ve done a lot of Yoga, and guided meditations. I am working through my Dialectal Behavioral Therapy workbook, a second time, to be sure I keep my tools and weapons sharp.
When the beast emerges from the dark haunted woods, I am ready to fight. For me, It’s a fight for my life. I’ve almost died in my drug use – and mania leads to using. I’ve tried to take my own life, in depressions. Last attempt, years ago, landed me in the hospital in a locked facility for a bit.
So this morning I woke up with a deep deep sadness. In the past, I would watch old videos and pictures and romanticize about the times of my life that were good – no – great. I would fully submit, and chase the rabbit deep into the rabbit hole and it would take me weeks to climb out and see the light of the sun, again.
Not any more. I watch those same videos and look at those same pictures with a retrained mind. I don’t wish or want to go back to the past. I smile, and today it was through tears, because through the sadness shines gratitude and love. This lifts me so much stronger, now in my daily life, than the sick shifting emotion’s gravitational pull. I feel gratitude to have those memories. Gratitude to have experienced those relationships. Honored to have walked, even if it was a short walk up a very steep hill, with such amazing people who have changed my life; and, I think about the ways that my life has improved from the changes I made (to become the person that I am becoming) from the pain of that hurt or separation.
Besides, as my Auntie Mikki says… “We don’t say goodbye. We say see you later.” I am often surprised and delighted as I end up reconnecting with these people and get closure – as they see me battling my beasts and emerging from a warrior into the person they knew I could be.