TIDES OF CHANGE
My counselor always informed me to take my medication regularly regardless how well I felt. But like many other bipolar sufferers I was lulled into a false sense of security during my times of stability. Her warnings that recovery would take longer and become more difficult with each passing episode went unheeded. Now, the fear is back again. It is a fear that lurks deep within me. It has crawled out of its hole and haunts me with thoughts of death, that doctors have missed something. I feel that it may be too late for me now. I feel a never ending madness awaits me. Even taking my medicine, it seems I am in a constant state of mania or depression at all times. I feel trapped, scared, and hopeless. I can no longer keep my enemy subdued.
I have done many articles on my illness since being on Gather. However, I do not believe enough can be said about an illness that is so destructive to not only the individual but also to the ones that love them. It is an illness that to this day like many others has no cure. Also, it is still a widely misunderstood disorder by many in our society that carries a stigma attached to its name. I, like many others who suffer from this severe and debilitating illness, just want to be understood instead of feared and ostracized. So what do I say to you about this brain disorder and chemical imbalance? Here in lies the dilemma.
Everyone goes through emotional ups and downs but with bipolar disorder the shifts in mood are similar to being on a rollercoaster where the highs are breathtaking and lows suck the life from you. With bipolar disorder my behavior has been appalling, moods and thoughts were hazy, rational thought was obliterated, and the need to live has vanished before. It is an illness that is biological in nature but one feels its experience psychologically. At times of mania I have taken advantage of possibilities I had only dreamed of before and experienced unfathomable pleasure. But without doubt unbearable suffering always followed with the frequent slashing of wrist. For twenty percent of bipolar sufferers suicide will be the answer to their intolerable, waking nightmares.
The depth of depression with bipolar illness depends on the individual. There have been times when I felt like I had fallen into the pits of hell. Painful hopelessness consumed my entire body and I was ridden with intense anxiety and sadness. I was exhausted to the point where getting out of bed and taking a shower was a major accomplishment for the day. I had delusions of guilt, convinced I was evil to the core.
As in depression, mania is different for each individual. Mania is the mood most sufferers enjoy. Before my meds started working I would become manic and loved every minute of it. The euphoria was the most powerful sensation I had ever experienced. I always ended up in trouble though. As mania would grasp hold of me I would shout, "WooooHoooo, lets party! I want to dance all night long!" Promiscuity is one of the symptoms of mania and one I seemed to suffer from quite often. That is where the trouble always started. As of late my manic episodes have been contained to irritability, anger, and aggression. I miss my euphoric highs. At first, it is so very tremendous. The ideas are fast, like cars speeding by you at the Indy 500. You are filled with confidence, every word you speak is brilliant, everyone you meet is interesting, colors are beautiful, and all senses are intensified tenfold. You are instilled with the feeling that you can do and accomplish anything. But the mania continues to grow and the thoughts are too many. Your memory starts to lapse, clarity turns muddy, and you are puzzled. No longer omnipotent, you feel like an uncontrollable yet trapped animal in a cage. Some may even experience symptoms of psychosis where they hallucinate and have delusions of grandiosity where they may believe that they are the President, the Virgin Mary, or have special powers or wealth.
Family and friends can be vital to the successful treatment of one who suffers from bipolar illness. Their recognition of the early symptoms of an episode can help stop it before it escalates into psychosis. They may even have the disheartening task of having to commit a loved one into the hospital against their will during times of severe mania or depression. Families have to endure the sufferer's calamitous behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawal during depression. Due to memory problems, medication side effects, or a false sense of security during times of stability, many will require the assistance of family or friends to take them to the doctor or ensure they take their medication properly each day.
Bipolar illness becomes an enemy to the sufferer, their family, and friends. The enemy destroys and drowns them in anguish as it attempts to rip apart the bonds that bind. It torments and demands respect. Like a powerful undertow it can drag all out to sea. Sagging self-esteem erodes a confused sufferer who may decide no longer to fight the undertow. Overcoming the devastation of this illness can be done with medical intervention and education. Society has come a long way in the recognition and acceptance of this mental illness however; there is still a struggle within society as a whole to accept it as any other medical problem. Bipolar disorder is a sad, destructive, angry illness that takes you prisoner and does not discriminate. I believe it is up to us to educate ourselves about this illness and then pass along our knowledge. Maybe this way we will one day see the tides of change roll in.