The Plight of a Bipolar Man
by Kenny Peters
One cannot understand, and as I get older I don’t think most cannot truly sympathize, at least accurately, what living with, but also managing, Bipolar Disorder really is. Especially when it’s under control. And my control on Bipolar Disorder has been in place for nearly two full years, no episodes in 9 months, even though a dip into depression was noted. A dip that was truly documentable as to why.
What seems to be a shocker to most people is that those who suffer with Bipolar Disorder (and there are a good number of variants on the disorder itself) actually have real “regular days”, where the things that would piss off a person without it, also piss us off too. Sometimes just a little, sometimes a lot, of course depending on the severity of that item. But the stigma will always be there, always be attached, and it’s frustrating that I can’t get mad, even really mad, or for that matter, happy, even really happy, without being accused or suspected of being in “an episode”. Despite buckets of proof to the contrary and acknowledgement of excellent growth from within professional medical circles (doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, evidenced by medicine control, awareness, and distance needed between follow up appointments on psychiatric care), personal forward movement and artistic development, the ease of which pointing to the “You’re Bipolar!” argument when I am actually just really pissed off or excited is about as fair as blaming a runner for not completing 5 miles instead of 6.
What I have realized now, 7 years after being diagnosed is that not only is the true nature of BD not understood by the General Public, even some that remain close to me don’t fully get it. I find myself wishing I had not ever told anyone, not ever revealed it, kept it to myself…..but I feel that would have been a far worse decision in the long run. I educate when I can, and don’t discuss it nearly as much as I did at first, but it’s not the focus of my life. For me, talking about it as much as i did helped ME learn what it was, and I have plenty of notes from others thanking me for spreading that information. I’ve even looked into the idea of a non-profit group startup for Bipolar artists in the area. You use your powers only for good, right?
So certain things can really be done to help manage the disorder, and I had taken care of as much as I could control, though admittedly I got off track in April & May as I started trying to not only ramp up for working on some very important music to me – my very soul – but my work at class increased tremendously in nature and I find that time management is still a problem for me. But hey, that affects many people, right? Otherwise, I found, and verified, that several factors help in treatment. They are:
- Good sleep. It does not HAVE to be the same hours every night, but regularity and quality of the sleep are imperative.
- Exercise. It does a body good. Period.
- Weight management & Diet. These factors are almost more important than the first two. Processed food….I think is just really bad for you anyway but I think that the chemicals inside most processed food either interact with your own chemistry when you are Bipolar and do not help in the management of it. Foods you cook yourself, and making sure that the Omega 6:3 ratio is excellent in your diet will be of huge benefit. Trust me on that.
- Knowing your triggers. The first & foremost trigger for most people is stress. There is all kinds of stress, Bad & Good. Both can do the same to you.
- A clean environment. While life has its daily garbage, a straightened area is very strong in helping control the onset of triggers for many.
So if I have had an interruption of the above, and then stresses enter in, and I react, iit does not automatically mean that an episode is at hand. It could just mean that I’m really pissed off or excited, and as I age, the importance of at least 6 hours of sleep is getting big. I recently went 3 days doing some work nearly non-stop from the moment I got up to very early in the morning/late in the night, and averaged about 3 – 4 each night. After 3 days of that, which coincided not only with my 50th birthday and the realization of man BIG plans for the day not coming to fruition as hoped, the death of a good friend less than a month ago, and much more, I finally got a little time to go spend with a few friends, have a few drinks, and even though I was tired, sit up and talk silly things like Star Trek and such until the wee hours of the morning. 5:00 in the morning…. I was pooped…a bit already frustrated, pooped, but a lot of work had gone on to get through the previous 3-4 days emotionally, and I was ready to just sleep. I got pushed to the limit on something and didn’t blow into an episode, I was just very angry…yet the BD is the prime mention….and I fear it’ll always be that way. The sad thing was I was accused of something ludicrous and defended myself angrily, stressed out, at 6:00 in the morning feeling the way you feel after 5 hours sleep in the last 24 hours….that didn’t seem to be a real option to consider.
If I let it, after all this work even, the “sad part” of what lies beneath wants to take ahold and tell me “Well, maybe you’re just not supposed to be a happy person.” And I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unknown. All the previous struggles of life, the breakthroughs of the last several years and the hard work to reach this day, and THAT is how I get to feel? 50 years for THAT? (No, I won’t let it.)
If I let it, it’s easy to feel that 8 years of work is truly not seen by the people closest to me, that I reacted as Kenny, in control but really pissed off, and not at the hand of any disorder. I am who I am, and know it.
I’ll also react opposite whenever my dreams and creative efforts lead me to the work that’s also been put into them. It’ll be with extreme elation and happiness. Is that going to be the response then, too? I’m flying into happiness not because of my good efforts, but because of a disorder? Toooo happy? Too mad? Who holds that gauge, and where can I get one so I know what acceptable limits are. I hope they’re adjustable, because this is who I am.
I’ll also react opposite when tenderness is displayed, when caresses or hugs or kisses take the place of accusations, suspicions and arguments. Most Virgos are. I can remember times when that tenderness was quite wonderful, and I sure miss that. But was that just the Disorder having fun, or was it really me?
I thought I was starting to actually look pretty good in the last 6 months, but the little sad part WANTS to convince me that maybe I’m just not supposed to be the recipient of tenderness, closely. Those efforts will restart again, but they won’t be noticed just like before, I fear…..if I let that little sad voice win. (and No, I won’t.)
So, in conclusion, it’s sad that something like this, something like Bipolar Disorder, is both blamed at the beginning and ending of a cycle of work that could lead one to think it’s all for naught. The stigma just needs to disappear. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, and it’s no wonder that so many with this disorder never find any real care….or the right care to make them realize that it’s just like any other disorder, treatable and manageable, but those around you may not ever comprehend what it’ like to live with it. You’ll always be the disorder, and never a victor over it. And that’s really, really sad.