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my manic life

the bipolar battle

Business in the Front.

As I power through “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert (READ IT!!!!), I can’t help but make a few connections. 

He claims that the frontal lobe is the part of the brain that differs us from all other living things. It gives us the opportunity to imagine the future. This next level survival technique is responsible for our speedy evolution that has put us leaps and bounds above (at least on our earth) other animals. 

Now what happens when you think too far into the future? Anxiety. What happens when these thoughts are negative? Depression. What happens when these thoughts are unrealistic? Mania. 

I am no where near scientifically understanding neuroscience, but can I at least suggest a pattern here? 

Everything in moderation right? What if we are those overdeveloped, before our time brains that struggle to adjust to the here and now and lead normal lives like the others? Too much of a good thing has side effects. Even economics realize there is always a law of diminishing returns. We are that downfall. 

But so what. 

Instead of molding, instead of purposefully fading our natural highs and lows, let’s embrace it. Different doesn’t mean bad. Different allows us to go where others can’t. 

I believe the mind is more powerful than we will ever be able to wrap our heads around. Maybe this is where my belief is God comes in, or maybe this is cold hard scientific fact. We need to continue to push the limits that we are given in order to continue this rapid evolution. 

So enjoy the highs, and let yourself live in your lows. Stop striving for perfection, admit your defeats, and let yourself be the best version of your chemical concoction that you are given.   

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My Friend Mary.

I hated Mary. I despised her. I never understood why people needed her to help expand their thinking abilities.

That being said, I quickly realized that I enjoyed conversations more when Mary was in the picture. She made people think like I did. Questioning everything, finding deeper meanings to the most trivial concepts. That’s how I worked, without Mary.

I’d be lying if I said I never enjoyed her on occasion. I found she did the opposite at first. She made things simple for me, allowing me to focus on one voice in my head at a time. Through my first major depressive episode she provided me with great company, and of course much needed laughs.

By the third day of medication I noticed a shift in how I experienced things around me. I found myself blacking out during uneventful parts of my day such as walking to class or driving to work. It was terrifying. My brain was off. I no longer reacted to the environment around me. I had no fluctuations of moods, I did not have constant chatter in my head making up stories about people and places on the boring walk to class, I wasn’t questioning where the other drivers were going on my way to work.

A zombie.

That’s the only way I can try to find a word powerful enough to explain what I was going through, but zombie doesn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg of confusion I was in.

*Enter Mary*

She turned me on. She brought my voices back. She made me paint, draw, and read once again. She made my brain hungry for what I once needed to do everyday, but had lost the ability to get back there.

I’m struggling to adjust to this new way of living. I have experienced the highs and I feel as if I will do just about anything to get back there. The majority of internet information around marijuana use and bipolar disorder say that it increases both the manic as well as depressive episodes.

Tell me Mary, are you a good friend to keep around?

One, or Two?

There’s something you need to understand about mental disorders. Psychiatrists assign them by using a definition in the most recent DSM. If you fit the criteria, they label you. They medicate you. Millions of others are diagnosed with manic depression, but I promise you no two cases are the same.

When you have a mental disorder, you have chemical imbalances. These imbalances can fluctuate along a spectrum, giving you a concoction of many different symptoms. It is necessary to group these symptoms in the medical field to try to find answers and cure through medicine and therapy.

So yes, I am bipolar. I have highs, I have lows. I am taking the medication that has helped others like me find relief, but I refuse to believe that my story can be defined by others. I do have some facts to face. I know my tendencies and what emotions I tend to lose control of. By focusing on what I can control, I someday plan to beat this disorder at it’s own game.

Since I was only diagnosed a few months ago, I am still figuring out how this will affect my daily living. Again, bipolar is not defined indefinitely. I am currently being treated as a Bipolar I patient. This means I will be experiencing extreme manic episodes and severe depressive episodes for the rest of my life. Maybe I just find this hard to digest, but I cannot accept this.

Bipolar II is categorized separately from Bipolar I because the extremes are less intense. Bipolar II patients can often recognize the shifts in their moods and emotions which can decrease the dependency on medication to do so.

Although you do not have a choice which mental disorder you have, I believe that my spectrum disorder falls into the bipolar II category. Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m still in denial. All I know is that I will not allow this to control me for the rest of my time here. I have a long journey ahead of me, one that cannot compare to anyone else’s, but I believe my mental awareness will keep me one step ahead of this diagnosis rather than becoming dependent on medication.

Big Girl Gown.

I’ve known this day would come.. In fact I’ve had moments where it felt way too far away and I would countdown how much longer I had left.

Today I bought my college cap, gown, and tassel. Less than a week away I will be walking across the stage to receive my Bachelors degree in Communication Studies and Psychology. I know this. I’ve worked for this.

As the cashier bagged up my items, he simply said “congratulations”.

One word. That’s all it took. Boom; dopamine and serotonin flood through every cravat of my brain. Emotion overload, I shut down.

I zombify even more as I take the walk back through campus. Thoughts moving too quickly in my head, good bad good bad great evil good bad happy sad good bad…lost.

All that has happened during these 3.5 years starts flashing before my eyes. I’ve had my highest highs in this place. I’ve found passion through my studies and discovered my talent. My confidence has never been higher, I’ve been proud of who I’ve become. Just as quickly as I recall the highs, the lows follow shortly behind. I’ve lost myself in this place. I’ve been ripped to shreds emotionally with stress, both internally and externally. I’ve wanted to take my life in this place, one cannot simply brush that feeling off.

The tears eventually subsided and I regained control over my thoughts. I let myself recognize the good, dwell in the bad, cry until my tear ducts dried up, and now I conclude; this place gave me answers, but also challenged me to ask more questions. I suppose that’s how life works.

In six days I will walk across the stage, shake some hands, grab my diploma, and step into the real world. Hopefully my big girl gown will shield me from my emotions as I once again hear “congratulations”.

 

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