The Bottom of the Well: The Reality of Living with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is a battle: with your family, your medical practitioners, your employers, your local health authorities, with society. But the biggest fight for any sufferer is with yourself; at both ends of the extreme, it is a battle to keep a grip on reality and stay alive.
Imagine a deep well.
At the bottom of the well, you have all your senses. You see, feel, smell, touch, taste. But the walls of the well are slick, there is nothing to hold on to. You have all your senses…but you have no hope.
The top of the well is so far away, you cannot see it. You can hear people telling you it is there but you do not believe. You could scream for help but you are afraid if you start screaming, you will never stop. So you stay silent. Ineffectual fingers paw at smooth walls. You will the people to go away, to leave you alone. You stop.
Then one day, without warning, you are rocketed into the stratosphere. Oh the joy, you are flying, flying and no one can stop you, you can do anything and everything. You feel euphoric. Stop cars with your bare hands? Of course! Cure cancer with just a microscope, a Petri dish and an old falafel? No problem! No, honestly, Officer, that tiger wanted to be dressed in a sailor’s outfit. You may think that is an exaggeration but when you are manic, nothing, nothing, is impossible.
Bipolar disorder seems to be ‘cool’ at the moment, every five minutes a celebrity blames their behaviour on their ‘bipolar’ or the medication they are on. But Bipolar Disorder is neither a badge of honour nor an excuse to obfuscate responsibility. It destroys lives. It is a horrific, disabling, often fatal disorder which is little understood by the carers of sufferers, the general public, or acknowledged by the organisations designed to protect those with this destructive disorder. The government’s own Department of Work and Pensions decide on incapacity benefit and disability allowances based on a series of questions which bear no relevance to the illness. This is not unusual: a loss of control over life is familiar and ultimately as destructive as the illness itself.
Twenty-five to fifty percent of manic depressives will attempt suicide. That is fifteen to twenty times the risk of that of the general public. Self-injury, hyper-sexuality and the risks that follow, huge debt and addictions are common symptoms. All this in addition to the highs and lows of life that we as humans experience every day, with a psychology constantly betraying itself.
Medication, exercise, therapy and above all, understanding, are the things we grip onto to pull ourselves out. These are the rungs on the rope ladder we climb as we drag ourselves up towards hope – the hope, the wish, for a normal life.