Fake Deep, Part 1b: Get To Know Me (con’t.)

Posted: November 27, 2017 in Feature Blogs

Click here if you have not read Fake Deep, Part 1a

Entry #1b of the Fake Deep series, which chronicles my own battles with mental illness and how it has shaped my life.

In this entry, I gloss over my condition and its symptoms. This sets the stage for Part 2, which will cover my childhood.

My Life With Bipolar Disorder

I’m not sure how “bipolar” became synonymous with “indecisive” but no, it doesn’t mean I have any more trouble than the next person deciding where I want to eat.

There are two basic types (I and II) of bipolar disorder, mine being the less severe (II) since I have never had a psychotic episode (yay me!). At its most layman, bipolar is characterized by *generally infrequent* and often unpredictable periods of extreme highs and/or lows. Those periods are called mania (or hypomania, in my case) and depression, respectively. I don’t live in a constant state of either extreme. My life is as boring as yours except for the few times per year that I have convinced myself that I have the world figured out.

I then either feel empowered by or crushed under the weight of that knowledge.

Neither situation is something you’re really aware of in the moment. When you are drunk, your spouse leaves you or someone dies, there are rational explanations for the euphoria/sadness you are feeling. Those are easily identifiable triggers with reasonable biological responses.

In the mental illness world, the triggers aren’t always so easily identifiable.

Mania/Hypomania

Being bipolar for me has been more of an obstacle than a handicap. I don’t complain because there are some inherent benefits to the hypomania. For me, I get intense bursts of creativity, as evidenced by this blog entry and the assurances I’ve given regarding future entries. And I’m sure by the time the next blog entry is due I will be cursing myself that I ever vowed to write again. I will either quickly and gladly complete the future entries or finish them begrudgingly to avoid the anxiety of potentially disappointing others.

Then I will self-loathe for 2-4 business days.

The synopsis of my life with hypomania: writing checks that my ‘normal’ self has to cash. Fellas, hypomania is a lot like when you’ve hit a drought and you start telling women you aren’t really into what they want to hear. You REALLY believe all of the dumb shit you are saying to them! Only to get what you wanted and you’re left thinking “mann what did I just do??”

Ladies, ditto, when you are abnormally lonely and opt to promote someone up from the friendzone.

I’m generally an introverted person. When I’m hypomanic, I’m gregarious, chatting with people that ordinarily I would avoid, agreeing to go fishing with them and shit. Only to be peeved and incredulous a week later as to why people I can’t stand insist on talking to me. A rational person will read that and say, “why don’t you just stay away from them PERIOD if they annoy you so badly?” For the most part I do, especially now that I have logged so many years of experience cleaning up my hypomanic messes. But you don’t always know when you aren’t “normal”.

That’s the thing about mental illness: NOTHING about it is rational.

Thanks to hypomania, I have 50+ pairs of sneakers, of which I actually wear about ten of them. The others have never had a foot in them. I don’t collect them and I don’t use them as home décor on a pretty shelf. They sit in boxes in my basement. I generally like sneakers and I have been known to purchase them in “my right mind”. But many of those pairs came in blocks of three and four at a time with no real advantage to purchasing in bulk.

I have the components to build at least four different guitars that I know I’ll never get around to building.

One night, I got on eBay and bought nearly every part necessary to restore my Mazda6 (my beater) and all that shit has just been sitting in my garage for almost two years now along with my Chrysler 300S Hemi that I HAD TO HAVE but never drive.

I recently informed my biological father that I would be blogging about my struggles with bipolar disorder. Once he got past the initial shock that I had ever been diagnosed (an ode to my ability to hide it, also something I will cover) he reminded me of the mother of all of my nonsensical purchases: I bought a whole engine off of ebay for my old Honda. I had nowhere to store the fucking thing. I had none of the equipment or space to perform an engine swap, it was the dead of winter but I just HAD to have it. It wound up sitting in a friend’s garage (no, not like a shop, the one-car garage in his house) for years until he got his house foreclosed on. I have no clue what ever happened to it. Or him, for that matter.

Depression

As annoying and inconvenient as the hypomanic episodes can be, the depressive ones are actually very difficult. The amount of time I spend consciously trying to avoid either extreme, is probably a 90/10 split in favor of depression. When The Matrix came out in the late 90’s, where people were marveling about the special effects and fight scenes, I was practically in tears because I felt like someone finally understood me.

It was a near-perfect metaphor for how I saw life: people who swallow what society was spoon-feeding them and those who do not.

And what good is being enlightened in a world that wants to remain plugged in anyway?

Even at my lowest points, it wasn’t the depression that hurt as much as it was the ensuing isolation from seeing things for what they really are. I don’t see “love” the way Walt Disney does, I see it for the dopamine and oxytocin overloads in the brain that it is. It’s a high like anything else, that’s why we experience withdrawals and bounce around to the next “fix” once the current one wears off. I’m in the neighborhood of roughly 0% success when trying to comfort someone’s broken heart with science.

But it’s what has kept me alive.

Coping With Bipolar Disorder

Education and introspection have without question been my saving graces. I understood my illness long before I was willing to accept that it existed within me. My ability to internally ask and answer all of the tough questions eventually brought me to acceptance. But my coping skills are more of a testament to the mildness of my condition than they are to my vast brilliance.

I don’t have all of my depressive triggers nailed but sadly I have to be judicious about the kind of fun I engage in. I can go to a comedy club, sporting event, etc. and have a good time without issue. But anything that involves actual bonding with people ALWAYS launches me into a several-day funk once I separate from them. If I had to guess, I think it’s related to my appreciation of people who I feel accept me.

Maybe I take the whole “treat them as if it’s the last time you will see them” thing a bit too literally?

I work out six days per week now and have a pretty clean diet, which both seem to have helped mitigate depressive episodes in terms of severity and duration. But if I miss more than a couple of days or eat poorly, I will isolate and shut down. At least when I was in school, I had the distraction of eventual graduation to keep me focused, an endgame. After my ten-year odyssey with school, I’m fresh out of distractions.

Sometimes people require medication just to function, let alone be productive. I am fortunate enough to never need medication, although I could probably benefit from it.

There’s still the misconception that mental illness is not also physical, as if to suggest it’s imaginary. The reality is that our thoughts, our commands to bodily action, the buffers in place that allow us to not move parts of our body while thinking about doing so, etc. are all electricity and hormones in the brain…tangible, physical shit. When the brain chemistry is imbalanced, you get disorders.

We’re not all just crybabies.

Conclusion

If you have stuck with me thus far, please know that I genuinely appreciate you. Depression for me isn’t so much about sadness (a symptom) but a flaw in how I process information (a cause). So I assure you that the future entries will be even better, as they will be past and present autobiographical accounts of my life and how mental illness has shaped them. I’m going to be talking about EVERYTHING: childhood, adulthood, relationships and most importantly, the child who saved me almost 15 years ago now.

Between now and then, if you know someone struggling with mental illness and you want to help, my advice to you is to just listen to them. If you don’t know how to communicate with them, then it’s likely because you are approaching them too logically and/or trying to fix them.

That will only drive them further into isolation.

Clinical depression is not logical. It seems like “help” always devolves into a lecture on emotional fortitude and comparisons to rational catalysts for depression.

“Well, my _______ died and I wanted to be buried in that casket with them…but I had to be strong and keep fighting…”

Sorry for your loss, bro, truly…but sometimes people haven’t lost anyone or anything yet still wish that they were in the casket.

Next time, try something like “It could just be me, but I feel like something is different with you…if I’m right, I’m always available to listen.”

If you are struggling with mental illness and you are too embarrassed to reach out or you want to avoid being talked to as if you are a spoiled child then I am the perfect stranger. It’s a shame that the only acceptable emotion to express in our culture is anger but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Holler at me.

I am listening.

Twitter: @bbqx_

Instagram: @bbqx

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Comments
  1. […] Fake Deep, Part 1b: Get To Know Me (con’t.) […]

  2. Krystle says:

    love Love LOVE! Thank you for being so real and NOT worry about how people might judge you. Part of the illness is trying to get through life without having to worry about others. I loved reading every sentence and every paragraph! Such great content. I am literally waiting for the autoplay to ask me if I would like to keep reading, as if I were watching a series on Netflix. Keep it coming. You got a major fan right here! ❤

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