It’s a beautiful, hot, sunny day here in west Wales. I’d like to be swimming in the sea today, I must admit. I live about twenty minutes away by bicycle, but don’t fancy a solo swim.
Earlier today I actually had coffee with someone else: my ex. I saw him walking down the street and invited him to join me as I was on my way to the coffee place I go to every morning. Maybe this is an example of the power of prayer, as I was praying for his health wealth and happiness a couple of days ago.
My ex also has Bipolar, and we had a chat, as fellow sufferers. I told him that when we met he was probably further along in his acceptance of the illness. We both agreed that his long spells in hospital had hit him hard. For myself, I never had more than a week in hospital, generally speaking. This made it easier for me to brush myself down and carry on as though nothing much had happened. My ex also lost a marriage. He lived in a small town and so everyone knew what he’d been through. I lived in London without anyone that close, so again it was easier for me to brush the whole thing under the carpet.
My ex has been volunteering for a mental health organisation. It’s led to some paid work giving talks to the emergency services and serving on interview panels for NHS jobs. He encouraged me to do the same — maybe I too have something to offer as someone recovering from this formidable illness.
We both agreed that our first hospitalisations were the hardest to deal with. I was anyway thinking about writing about that topic today, as I was reflecting that it really is time to stop wallowing in the loss over my relationship!
I’ve never found the police all that sympathetic when my illness has caused me to be sectioned by them. The police were involved in four of my five sections. Easily one of the more troubling parts of getting ill. It made me feel like I was a criminal for having Bipolar. I dread to think what this must feel like for people that are in an ethnic minority — truly horrible I would imagine.
It certainly was confusing to end up hospitalised when I had been hypomanic, thinking I was having the time of my life. I did think that, but at the same time my high had been laced with a formidable paranoia. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I barely spoke to anyone for an entire summer. Eventually I ended up being dragged into a police van stationed outside my block of flats, by four policemen. Because I was pretending to be dead one of them said: “It would be easier if she was dead.”
The psychiatrist was very nice. They visited me at home after I had been discharged and tried to explain that I had had a “manic episode” but I honestly didn’t understand that at all. My mania just continued at a lower level; with the false ideas about spiritual revelation, and finding out about the true nature of the universe. I just couldn’t see or accept that I had been ill. I didn’t understand. It’s taken me many trips to the hospital, as well as a stint working in a psychiatric hospital myself, to get to grips with having manic depression.
I wasn’t actually sectioned the first I landed up in hospital, except by the police for causing a commotion. That means the doctors didn’t make me take meds. I ended up running away from the hospital and getting into all kinds of trouble. I would certainly have been better off if I had been sectioned and forcibly medicated. I lost everything. Relationships, college, a sense of being alright in the world.
Since that first bout of illness, I don’t think I’d ever been released from the hamster wheel of mania + depression, until now. This I is because I have a good balance of meds: anti-depressant + mood stabiliser. It’s pretty horrible when the only relief from depression is mania and vice versa.
The depression I had to contend with after my mania was nothing like the depression I was diagnosed with before my first hypo manic episode, because I had so much shame about the trouble I had caused when I was manic. I couldn’t even blame the booze, as I had always been able to do previously, because I was ‘sober.’ This meant that I could no longer relate to people in AA, as I had always been able to do in the past. Everything felt overwhelmingly confusing and complicated. And I could never really see that I needed medication because I didn’t really understand or accept that I had been ill. Plus, it took quite a bit more mayhem before I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 2. They don’t give out that label as a matter of course. In my experience it takes a lot.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that my days of denial and confusion are behind me. I understand that I am not simply an alcoholic. Therefore the twelve steps are not enough for me to get well. I think this is one of the reasons I have found it so hard to get over my ex — he was one of the first people I could really relate to. And he wasn’t even an alcoholic. This helped me understand what is really wrong.
It’s been a good part of my recovery writing this blog and reading about others with the Bipolar condition on the WordPress site. It’s nice to see people supporting each other and creating community, especially given that the internet has a reputation for being such a divisive and corrupt environment. Long may it continue! My ex says that the volunteer community will also think my blog is a good thing. I had to inwardly small about this, wondering what he would think if he knew I write about him such a lot! Luckily he didn’t seem to want to know the address, as I’m not sure how he would feel if he knew. Anyway, he would probably understand, being a fellow sufferer.