I Am Bipolar

“Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around” – Smokey Robinson

When I first heard those lyrics they did nothing for me.  Just another oldies song from my parents’ youth that I enjoyed.  Of course I was too young to understand what those words actually meant. 

My parents did the best they could at the time, I do realize that now.  Having to raise six kids not everyone was going to get equal attention.  By the time I was old enough to start helping out around the house my three older siblings were out on their own which left me as the oldest in the house.

My little brother and I were as opposite as could be.  On the surface I was the calm one and he was super hyper.  We also had nephews who were just as wild as the Tasmanian Devil.  To say we pushed my mother to the edge of breaking would be an understatement.  My mother was strong enough to endure the stress we caused her, however, I can not say the same for one of my favorite aunts.

All I knew was that she was “sick” and we should pray for her.  My mother had told me that she had enough problems with those younger than me so I wasn’t allowed to have problems.  I was the good child and I needed to help her.  I love my mother so of course I said yes.  Now the meaning of the lyrics became clear to me.

I became that clown.  My grandmother use to say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  My family loves to laugh and I figured if I could be the cause of that laughter it could serve as medication for me as well.

Even though I was surrounded by people I often felt alone.  I felt I did not fit into my own family.  For years, once I found out what it meant, I actually thought I was adopted because I was so different.

When everyone wanted to run around and play outside, I wanted to sit and read a book.  When it rained and everyone complained about the weather I loved it and would be out in it if I could.  Everyone else could sleep for hours and I could never sleep longer than four hours.

I learned to burry my feelings deep inside.  I kept them bottled up as I projected a happy persona to the world.  I was helping.  My mother never had to worry about me, I took care of myself as well as those I was responsible for, my younger siblings, my nieces and nephews.  As the years went on the list grew and I was willing to do it if it meant keeping my mother sane.

Upon entering high school, unknown to anyone, I had attempted to kill myself three times, thinking the world would be a better place without me in it and no one would notice anyway.  As tough as I pretended to be on the outside, inside I was a coward.  Make no mistake, unless you have been to that point, you have no idea what real strength it takes to follow through on the act of suicide.  For those brave enough to succeed, I feel at peace for them, their suffering is no more.

Because I became an expert in hiding my feelings I was able to spot others attempting to do the same.  I knew what they were feeling and wanted them to know they were not alone.  I became a shoulder to cry on, and ear to talk to, a hand to pull them back from the ledge.  Helping others, all the while, unable to help myself, living in a constant state of fear.

That deep cold dark fear exist to this day.  After everything I’ve been through from those days to now, learning that I have clinical depression and bipolar disorder, learning how to control it, without medication, I thought I had overcome that fear.  One night, during a family discussion, I found out that that cold overwhelming fear never goes away.

A family friend had mention that his mother and sister has bipolar.  It was stated by my family that if someone who has bipolar is not taking medication then they are a danger to themselves and others.  When I heard that my stomach dropped to floor and an ice cold chill ran up my spine.  Fear wrapped around me and bundled me tightly in its grasp.  I was afraid, genially afraid in the one place I should have felt safe, surround by the people I should never fear.

My life from childhood to present flashed before my eyes in an instant, fear threatening to consume me.  Suddenly anger took over, quickly burning away that fear.  I was ready to explode, but that was due to having anger issues that is deeply rooted in my family.  I was ready to fight, a product of both sides of my parent’s families.  I was being pulled in many different directions, a product of my bipolar.  All of this in a time span of five seconds.

“I have bipolar,” I found myself saying.  “And I don’t take medication for it.”

Silence filled the air briefly then the conversation continued on, with me sitting back not saying another word on the subject.  It took three days for that fear to subside but I realized that it’s still there, lingering in the shadows of my mind, never to leave me.  I took a deep breath and a few other realizations came to me.

I know that some people do need medication, they can not function without it.  Others, however, do not.  It’s easier to take the medication and go through life without seeing the real world around you but what kind of life is that?

I am friends with both types of bipolar.  One needs the medication.  I can tell when it’s not taken because there is a slight change in attitude and while most people will never see that change, it’s clear to me as night and day.

Another friend was in that state of the world passing by.  Trusting the doctor, medication that was not needed was being taken.  Just like any dependency, there were withdraws as they slowly came off the meds, having them reduced.  It was an adjustment but a weight was being lifted as they understood they were not alone when they needed to weather a storm.

Either option does not take away the fear we live with.  Will those I love understand when I say I’m bipolar or will they look at me like the monster I know myself to be?  Will those I interact with daily treat me differently, afraid themselves of what they do not understand?  Worst yet, will I be taken away somewhere, locked up like a caged animal, no longer a human being?

These fears are very real for us but another thing I realized, we need to educate non M.I.s about our condition.  We do not need to live in fear because living in fear is not living at all.

Whatever your M.I. do not keep it to yourself, tell someone.  Talk about it, answer questions they may have.  You will feel a huge weight lifted if you do.  I know it’s hard, it’s hard for me, but we can do it.  I’m tired of living in fear, aren’t you?