Last night, just before Matt and I went to bed, I started feeling upset and, at first, didn’t understand why. It wasn’t massive-mood-swing upset, so it didn’t scare me, but it did catch me off guard.
“What’s wrong?” Matt asked, and it surprised me how quickly the answer came to me once he asked.
“I’m feeling sorry for myself,” I said, and I knew it was true as soon as I said it.
Matt understood. “It’s great how hard you’ve worked to present an inspirational perspective about persisting in the face of bipolar. But the fact is that you are living through something really difficult and it’s ok to be upset about that. I wish you expressed those feelings more.”
So I cried with him and he held me as I fell asleep.
Today I went for a walk by myself and tried to hold those big feelings in the front of my chest, where I could feel them, instead of pushing them to the back of my brain.
They’re stupid things: like not being able to drink on my medications.
They’re huge things: like knowing we may not want to have any more kids.
They’re exhausting things: like wondering if I’ll ever again be truly joyful in a non-manic way.
They’re terrifying things: like knowing the high percentage of people with bipolar that end up committing suicide (I can’t even bring myself to write the actual number here).
They’re nerve-wracking things: like wondering if I gave Bailey bipolar, and if hers will be worse than mine.
They’re vain things: like wondering if people see me as less intelligent or less capable or less reliable now that they know about my diagnosis.
It’s a balance to wade in the waters of these feelings- to let them wash over me without drowning in them.
As I type out this list, I realize that it’s almost entirely made up of “what if” statements, instead of things that are actually happening.
This is partly reflective of my anxiety-ridden brain, which is talented at finding worst case scenarios for the future and fixating on them.
But I realize as I write this that bipolar is a bit of a disease of “what-ifs”. The symptoms of mania and depression are pretty predictable, yes. And there are certain triggers that put you more at risk of having an episode.
But in general, at least in my experience, it feels like a lot of bipolar is waiting- whether it’s waiting for the other shoe to drop or waiting for something to get better.
There is no guarantee which combination of medications will work for you, or how long it will take to find them. There is no way to know how frequently you’re going to have manic or depressive episodes. And one of the terrifying parts of having a disease that induces psychosis is that you have no idea what your brain is going to tell you is true, which makes it extremely hard to predict what might happen.
I’m afraid I’ll lose my husband.
I’m afraid I’ll lose my job.
I’m afraid I’ll lose friends and family.
These are not unfounded concerns- these are things I know have happened to others.
I have been blessed thus far, but I carry this uncertainty on my back: the burden of a disability that does not sit still long enough for me to develop a plan of attack against it. Just when I think I’ve mastered how to live with this disease, it shape shifts into the opposite of what I’d been grappling with.
It makes me determined to fight, yes.
But it also makes me mad. And embarrassed. And worried. And afraid.
And most of all, tired.
Thanks for reading,
87 miles down, 13 miles to go