The best way I can describe my experience with bipolar is that it is like the movie A Beautiful Mind—minus the paranoid schizophrenia. The loss of insight and connection to reality were complete, and I found myself acting in ways that were unrecognizable to myself and those around me. I also began to experience extreme moods, some of which appeared beautiful, but which ultimately hid a vast darkness.
The symptoms began innocently enough: although I wasn’t getting much sleep, I began to feel as if I didn’t need it anymore. My mind was “on” all the time and I was extremely productive in all manner of ways. Life held an incredible amount of meaning: colors seemed brighter, songs sweeter, and feelings of ease permeated my marrow. But soon, time began to move too quickly, as if I were on a crazy carousel. Ordinary encounters with predatory individuals I normally wouldn’t have spoken to held strong cosmic significance. My emotional responses were at odds with those of loved ones around me. I began to experience symptoms of hypersexuality.
Left undiagnosed and untreated, bipolar will consume you alive. It destroyed my marriage, and I was left with the aftermath, alone. A year later, I discovered lithium. Taking it was like waking from a dream, only to find my identity, dreams, and everyone I had loved (and held dear) gone. I tried to restore relationships that had been broken, but I learned that sometimes they can’t be. These are the brutal truths of bipolar: the dark point you must come back from.
I came out of the darkness a different person, one with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. I was alone, and yet not alone. People who didn’t know me walked with me through the darkness. Their kindness and compassion moved me. And although I had fallen, I learned how to pick myself back up.
Time reveals greater truths. It’s like flying a plane: when you’re close to the ground, all you can see are the immediate details. And yet the farther away you get, the broader your perspective is on what you see and understand. My own journey with bipolar has been like this. When I looked out at first, all that I saw was destruction. And yet as more time passed, I saw the greater truths of beauty and resilience. Of grace and forgiveness. Of love, what it is, what it means—and its power to restore and heal.
It is with this spirit that I now write to share all that I have learned: that darkness will happen in life, that bipolar can be an awful monster to defeat (and one that must be continually fought back each day). But, through this process, something significant can be found—something life-giving, solid, and real. There is hope. Let’s walk through this life, and all the pain it can bring, together.