Do you know anyone who lives with Bipolar Disorder? Have you ever wondered what it’s like? Well, let me just say that it can be hell. When the phases of mania and depression converge, it can feel like your life is spinning out of control and then “BAM!” comes the crushing descent into the void. This void feels like you’re being sucked into a vortex. Numb and devoid of energy, even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. There is a song by the group Nine Inch Nails called “Into the Void” which sums up the experience quite well.
I vividly recall my last depressive episode. It was in March 1995 and I was newly married to my wife, Suzy, who was pregnant with our first daughter. In a matter of a couple of days I went from an episode of psychotic mania to the crushing feeling of overwhelming inertia and despair. I had signed myself out of a local institution AMA (against medical advice) because I was afraid to stay there. So, my wife and I moved into my parent’s house temporarily as I attempted to recuperate. This was no easy task.
My parents had been through this before many times with me, but not Suzy. This was a major test for the early days of our marriage. While this was a challenging experience for her, she was steadfast in her support of me. Suzy is an especially compassionate and intuitive soul. And this was a supreme example of when she rose to the occasion. To say that I’ve been blessed is an understatement.
I had support from others as well, especially my pastor, Rev. Bruce McKay and my friends from my 12 Step program, Mark and Dave .Mark was the best man in my wedding and he would pick me up to spend the day with him while he was at the movie theater he owned. I will never forget his kindness and expression of what we call in my fellowship “unconditional love.”
While the assistance from Suzy and others was crucial to my recovery, I still had to do the work to get better. It was a slow process, kind of like learning to walk again after you’ve had both legs severely broken. The emotional healing required can drain a person of their physical, mental and spiritual energy. It sucks.
I belong to a private Facebook group for people who live with Bipolar Disorder. I mostly read the posts and occasionally try to provide a supportive comment. But mostly for me, it serves as a reminder of how hard it can be. It keeps it green. And although I have a strong memory of my last episode, reading the group’s members posts and comments serves as a regular wake up call as to how hard it is for many, if not most of us, who live with this cruel disease.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been able to outpace my past and stay a step ahead of the psychotic rollercoaster ride that I suffered through many years ago. But it’s always there, right around the corner, stalking me. By no means am I in the condition I was back then, but I do know that if I stray even slightly from my self-care regimen which includes medication, sleep, exercise, meditation abstaining from illicit drugs and alcohol, and using my social supports, I’ll end up right back where I started, if not worse.
I decided a long time ago that I have too much to lose. I can’t afford to squander what I’ve earned. It’s all just too painful. I never want to go back into the void.