Look, Act, Sound, Seem
I have no idea why, but for some strange reason about ten months ago, I decided to inform everyone I knew that I was suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Now, don’t get me wrong; I didn’t walk up to total strangers and announce it. I did this little experiment for bout 6 months and the most astounding results were discovered.
In almost each situation, the response was one or more of the following:
“Well, you certainly don’t act it,” “You don’t look it,” “You don’t sound or seem to be.” My favorite response of all was the ever popular, “What is Bipolar Disorder?”
Look, act, sound seem…hmmm…I feel that the majority of those “out of the know”, assume us to be like the Hollywood versions of victims of Bipolar Disorder. I’ve met literally hundreds who suffer from BP and I’ve yet to come across one who pushed anyone off a subway platform, stabbed a total stranger for no reason, or went into a former employer’s office with an AK47 or deer rifle. (Not that the urge has not crossed my swirling mind on occasion).
Contradictorily, those who are closest to me, my friends and coworkers, they most definitely can tell when I LOOK, ACT, SOUND and SEEM Bipolar because I’m usually in a hypo manic state. Until you explain it to them, which can take hours, minutes, months or years…they just assume you’re chatty and won’t shut up. They don’t realize you realize you’re chatty but that you cannot “shut up.”
Then there are those who assume they know all there is about this disorder even though they themselves don’t have but by golly each one of them “knows somebody who does.” Well now. That may be all well and good, but the “somebody” they know is certainly not me and as we all know, we share common elements, but yet we are each unique as a winter snowflake.
Oh and let’s not forget those who totally just do not believe in Bipolar Disorder or any other mental disorder and fully believe that we can “make ourselves stop” if we “really” wanted to. I cannot help but wonder if those particular folks are the same ones who believe that the Holocaust and Moon Landing was faked. Some people. There’s no hope.
I KNOW when I’m acting Bipolar. I can tell it from the inside of my mind. I see the movie being played out with me being the main character and I can hear the inner voice telling me to stop it but pffft…. I cannot. It’s only afterwards that I can offer my apologies for odd behavior.
I’ve learned my triggers that set off my mania, funny enough; it’s any interaction with other people. Now that’s a difficult one to control unless I want to go hide in the Afghani caves with “you know who.” Then the day I’m not “being BP”; I get peppered with “what’s wrong with you? Are you okay?” Well damn people, make up your mind. Now those closest to me have learned to accept and tolerate my nonstop running verbal commentaries. Doesn’t mean they like them but they tolerate them. One coworker actually enjoys them because she says I’m “funny” when I’m like that, even though it distracts her from her work. So I have learned to sort of tone down my hypo mania. Now I just talk to myself, which leads to my coworkers repeatedly asking if I’m talking to them, or myself to whom I reply, “myself, I’ll let you know when it’s meant for you.”
My sister-in-law almost went whacko this summer as a poor drug choice by my PDoc and I, not only shifted me into full blown mania but at the same time, it could have killed me at any moment via a brain seizure, and it made me mean…very, very, mean. More on that horrendous endeavor in a different article in the future. And I have to tell you; she wasn’t very subtle at trying to avoid me when she saw me enter the door and my mouth start going. Some people are good at excusing themselves so they don’t have to “deal with you.” Um…she’s not one. I saw through it immediately and so I would shift my attention to my poor brother who has the patience of Moses with an ark full of animals and he’d stand or sit there while I was spouting off about everything from carpenter bees to how much cat food my animals consumed daily. The irritating part is I KNEW inside, I was rambling and manic and I KNEW I was boring the poor man and he was just being polite but I still couldn’t stop.
With a medication change, now I can control my chatter. Okay, I’ve always been a yakker but those close to me can tell immediately if it’s just normal Storm chattering versus a manic or hypo manic Storm hurricane. And so can my PDoc. He thinks I’m hysterical. And he pretty much lets me verbally wander all over the place until we begin talking “business.” He is says he is amazed at my strength and my insight into people, myself and this illness and that I will make a great counselor some day. Well yes I will, as soon as I design a therapy program where I get to do all the talking and the client keeps quiet.
No, seriously, when someone in person comes to me with an issue they need to vent, I do switch modes and I am very intuitive, observational and pay close attention. Plus I can actually shut-up. If I weren’t able to control my moods to that extent, I wouldn't waste my time in psychology.
The key thing that those around us just cannot comprehend is that we cannot always stop what we are doing, even though we know we are doing it. On the other hand, we cannot allow our illness to be our excuse for bad behavior, just as an addict or alcoholic cannot always “blame it on the drug.” We are NOT our disease. We have it, even though sometimes it seems as though it has us and I think at times it does. But we have to take responsibility for our actions and our illness, not fall into a pity party and let the monster run our lives.
Taking control isn’t easy, ever. But to a certain extent it can be done. When I have days where I know I’m going to be in a mixed state and totally worthless as a contributing individual, I isolate at home and work. Others will say, “Oh well I have my ups and downs too.” Uh huh. They have no idea what a real up or down is. Every so often, I will have a day, sometimes three in a row, usually a weekend, that I become semi-agoraphobic. I literally cannot step outside my door. I’ll open the door to let the dog run, but I myself cannot go out. Or some days I can go out I just cannot leave the safety of my own home turf and be around people.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding the right medication program and sticking to it every single day. I know, I know, we get to feeling so good that we blow off a day here or there on our meds. That’s when it all goes to hell in a hand basket, at least for me because I can tell a difference and I imagine those I come in contact with definite can see that I do indeed look, sound, act and seem different. If I can detect it, no reason they cannot. My normal personality is upbeat, sarcastically funny and active. If I’m quiet, people get concerned. But you know what, like I’ve said before, even Superman needs a day off now and then to recharge his strength and so do we.
So the next time someone says you don’t act or seem like someone who is Bipolar, just toss him or her an evil smile and ask where the nearest subway is.
**Disclaimer: any typos, grammatical errors should at the very least be overlooked mainly because I have no editor, spellchecker isn’t foolproof and as usual, my mind works much faster than my fingers. **
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