Since beginning my journey to recovery, I’ve learned a lot about myself. But I’ve also learned a lot about the way people perceive mental illness and particularly bipolar. My bipolar isn’t the pretty kind. It isn’t the kind you can get over no matter how much you want to. Part of the reason for me sharing my experiences is to maybe help others gain a bit of understanding.
I think it’s difficult for people to truly understand what it means to be in the midst of a full blown psychotic break from reality. “Just take meds” is the most common response I’ve gotten from people who truly do not understand. In the middle of my psychotic break, I couldn’t have taken any meds regardless of how badly I wanted to. I needed to be forcibly hospitalized for at least 90 days. I needed to be forcibly medicated for all of those 90 days, but that’s not how it works. I wasn’t suicidal so I wasn’t forcibly hospitalized. I was held only on a psyche eval for 72 hrs and then sent home. My appointment with my therapist was two weeks later. I saw him once every four weeks.
That wasn’t the kind of help I needed. I wasn’t able to make the decision to take my meds. I wasn’t able to make the decisions that I needed to make in order to get better. Not during those moments. But that is difficult for people to accept and truly understand. It’s one of those things that unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it is almost impossible to truly comprehend.
Being in the midst of my psychotic episode was like being caught up in a tornado. All I could do was hold on and wait for it to spit me out. Then try to pick up and rebuild wherever I had landed. I’m not saying that my behavior should be overlooked or excused. Or that somehow I’m not responsible. Because I take full responsibility for my actions. And I fully realized some bridges may never get rebuilt. And I’m ok with that. All I can do is build new ones and whoever wants to cross over with me is welcome to. Whoever doesn’t I hold nothing against.
I guess the main thing I wish people would understand is my actions in the middle of an episode are not truly my own. My true self has been taken hostage by my illness. My true self would never do the things my manic self does. It is important for anyone who loves someone with bipolar to understand that. My manic self is not my true self. I work hard to keep my true self in control as much as possible, but it’s like having a caged lion pacing back and forth, constantly slamming against the door, trying to break free. Sometimes he gets a toe out, sometimes a whole leg, and sometimes he gets all the way out. Each time I work hard to lock him back up because that’s not the person I want to be.
I get how difficult it is for those on the outside to understand this, but if even just one person gains a bit of understanding, then it was worth it.