Friday, June 15, 2012

My Experience with "Bipolar Disorder"

Originally posted to Queer Mental Health
Amber rain is beautiful but wrong
Caught between weak and being strong
It seems these days the weaker ones survive
What an awful way to find out you’re alive
A dull warm red water falls
Flowing down to the sea
Where deeper darker waters wait for me
I don’t expect I’ll ever understand
How life just trickled through my hand

How does one write about their experience with someone that involves such changes, such growth, and such differing perceptions over time? How does my interpretation of what I felt 10 years ago differ with my current feelings about such things, and the current interpretation? How do you give an accurate account of experience navigating different mind states over time without simultaneously being in every one of them?

I suppose you just go for it…

I am an alien. I am an outsider. The square peg. The lone wolf.

I have the innate human longing for community and love, and also decades of experience that teaches me about group dynamics and human behavior and interaction. I know what I am susceptible to, who and what can trigger me, and who can lead me in the direction of becoming someone I am not, or someone I do not wish to be. I have embraced the autonomous individual from a social species. And that is who I am.

For me, being “bipolar” is about my environment as much as it is about my mind. Almost 30 years of experience to put into words… It is impossible. So I am spitting out the feelings instead.

A shy, quiet, nerdy child. A different, fantastical, imaginative child. A bullied, strange, ostracized child. An overthinking, overanalyzing, spend-all-night-up-thinking-about-outer space-and-death, child. A hypersensitive child. A sexual child. A child that climbed things to fall, who shoved sharp things through skin to experience the feeling, who held their breath to go someplace else. To know the whole spectrum of experience before they were told to stand in line. A child who screamed bloody murder and did not know why and who never acted “like the other kids”. A crazy child. A disturbed child. A creative child. A sweet, loving child who brought home injured animals both to help them and to have them as companions.

The nonhuman animals always “got it” didn’t they? You could always count on them, even in the wild. And the music… It was always there. It is always there.

Then came a teenager whose attempts at community led to self hatred, eating disorders, drug addiction, mood swings, freak outs, abuse, and panic attacks. At a time when having a place to call home was so important in the social world, and at a time where autonomy from parents seemed critical, everywhere I went I had to be fake.

In dresses, happy, submissive, girl, straight-leaning… cool. I always failed. I always left. And started anew, taking the lessons learned with me. A new group of friends, a new sect of strangers, never really knowing me. Lovers who knew me too well. And those who I latched onto out of fear of starting over again…

8 years of active drug addiction, that began on the premise that the chemicals made me normal. I had found the answer. The pills made it easy to join the groups, even though they were on the fringes. It made me human, no longer alien. It calmed me and helped me focus, and evened out the ups and downs. It made it all less real. It made it tolerable.

Until I would go way down again. And again. Uncontrollable sobbing following the nights awake for days…

A young adult in the grips. Creativity and motivation lost. Longing to continue burying the pain. The assaults, the loss, the compulsions and obsessions. Just one fix. And then another. And that was life. It was easier that facing it lucid, the world of things and societies and groups of people that could never understand this alien. The pain of the day to day routine of getting off sick with another wad of cash seemed at least to be simple. Simply horrible. But simple.

Down so low that no chemical could bring me up and I longed for death. Sometimes succeeded. Until the Naloxone or stomach pumps brought me back. Shit. Here we are again. I liked the dark world where there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was better than this…

An adult. Clean. Naked. Raw. In pain. More alien than ever. Crazier than ever. Drugged now by prescriptions instead of needles and straws. Covered in scars and making more. Vomiting food and feelings. Separate from the flesh. Pushing people away. Hurting them before they could hurt me.
And as I fell, I tripped into a sea of love and support.

A loving mother. An therapist who finally got it. A drug rehabilitation program that called me on my shit. A dialectical behavioral Therapy program that taught me to change the way I thought through my actions. 12 step programs that gave me community. Healing energy all around me. They pulled me from the pit right before I drowned. I choked on the mud I had inhaled and they were there as I coughed up each chunk.

And then there were the animals. The one constant force of happiness in my life. And now I understood suffering so deeply, and longed to stop theirs. Obsessively, I traded an addiction to drugs for an addiction to liberation. To fight for people to see inside the cages. To fight for people to feel. Often disappointed at how little many people did, or how hard they tried not to.

And again I would plummet. Nights awake searching for answers, led to isolation and nightmares of all the suffering in the world. Psychosis. Rescue efforts leaving with PTSD. How horrible a world. 

Why stay here?

Take responsibility. Take control. You are in control.

Find the things worth living for.

Recording charts. Mood measurements. Finding triggers. Dealing with abuse. Knowing the mind. Knowing the body. Eating for life and for psychological well being. And becoming myself. Masculine. Strange. Mad. Political. Caring. Loving. Fighting. Striving for change. For love. For liberation.

I found the radicals. The anti-authoritarians. The queers. Mad folks and lunatics who had found stability. Kinksters. Consent oriented players. I found communities. I found love. And lost it. And found it again and again.

I’m still an alien. I’m still moody. I am still a lone wolf in a big world of packs who run together. But today, I know the ups and downs, I accept who I am, and I do not need to fit into the model of “sanity” designed by some.

“Bipolar Disorder” means I am free. Free to see people as individuals. Free to be myself. Free to see the world through fresh eyes over and over again, even if they are clouded by the past. Free to understand that we are all different in how we communicate, how we experience the world, and what we need. And free to be me.

Had I not been forced to the outskirts by my mental status, by my addiction, and by abuses I suffered, I am not sure I would see the world in such a beautiful light as I do today. Sometimes a tragic light. Sometimes a saddened depressed state when I think about the suffering. But I experience it all in it’s entirety. Not just tiny little glimpses. I see existence. I exist.

How can one know suffering without suffering? And how can one change the world without experiencing it?

Experience it. Risk it.

After all, you don’t get much time..

Moon’s milk spills from my unquiet skull
A white rainbow
Inverted vertigo, a psychosis
And overhead, overhead
A tremulous column of air, hanging there
A white rainbow
Laughing like skeletons clattering at midday
And overhead, a white rainbow
Under an unquiet skull, under an unquiet skull
Feel the moon’s pull
A white rainbow