The first drug I’d ever taken specifically for Bipolar II was Risperidone. It’s classified as an anti-psychotic. Before you get too excited, no I’m not (nor have I ever been) a psychopath. It’s just a name for what a well-known, really effective drug for folks in my particular predicament can do. Psychosis can take a variety of different forms, including delusion and hallucinations (both of which I have never experienced.)
Most of the time, I am by myself in my analysis of my emotional state. People who care and can listen are free to participate but I don’t typically invite people in. It gets complicated, most people have a horrible or dicey view of bipolar, and generally can’t hang. I prefer a view of neurodiversity to straight-line illness. Most people just talk with pity and treat me like I’m sick.
When my stress levels are heightened, I now notice signs of distress thanks to education, hard work, and better pharmaceuticals. In the past week I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’m working longer days than usual and I’m away from my son and partner a lot. This stuff keeps me in an emotional place that I need to monitor closely.
Direct actions are a puzzle. My body reacts to it in a vastly different way than it used to, but I guess that’s no different than anything else really (haha.) It sometimes feels like my brain takes offense to the overload of emotion from other people. Sometimes I am having a great time. Sometimes I feel the eerie, cool calm of medicated emotional management that has now become sadly familiar. Sometimes the emotions get to be too much and I slide down or up. It can be tricky because everyone around me is feeling as well, but they may not be experiencing what I am experiencing.
So what do I do?
I’ll be honest: it is now rare that I’ll attend an action unless I’m with people I like or people who will understand. I also rarely stay for long periods of time, choosing to leave early. When I hold actions I make sure I have a specific job to keep me occupied and I love a job that allows me to move in and out of the central activity. I’m not scared of action. I’m not scared of confrontation. It just hurts when I participate, so I need to choose carefully how I roll. The pain of it feels like I’m being stabbed in the emotions, with others emotions, with my own emotions. I don’t think drugs will fix it and I’m not sure I want to. I’m supposed to feel my real feelings.
I’m not telling you these things because I want to educate you on being bipolar. There are lots of resources and I’m never quite sure I’m the person to be that teacher. I’m telling you these things because I believe my survival and your survival moving forward is going to depend on being vulnerable.
There’s no reason to pretend that we’ll just get along fine wringing our hands and hoping that we can just do what we’ve normally done to get to where we want to be. Conventions and norms regularly get crushed underneath a black loafer in this new time and we all know it.
Being vulnerable enough to say that you’re not fine can make you march for the first time, talk to someone you don’t know, or ask for help. I know because when I had to ask my Mom (as a grown man) and my wife (as a husband) to help me commit myself because I wanted to drive into oncoming traffic because I was so depressed, I had to see past all the learned bullshit. People didn’t stop loving me because I surrendered… and I didn’t stop loving myself either.
Vulnerability for me is telling these stories clearly and without fear. When I do this I gain perspective but I also gain allies who will maybe see me as a complex human being who is more than their perceptions about what being bipolar means.
Vulnerability for me is recognizing that I have real issues that require real solutions. When I do this, I take my medication on time and (generally) take good care of my brain.
Vulnerability for me is taking a nap sometimes because I can feel the clarity slipping away and working harder will only make it worse, even though I have been trained to work myself to death.
Vulnerability is admitting that I fail all the time, that I make bad decisions, and that I generally don’t have all (or any) answers.
How will you be vulnerable this week? This month? This year?
Who are we when we are vulnerable? Ourselves truly? Our best self? Our worst self?