There are few outward signs of a manic episode. If you have Bipolar Disorder or know someone who does, you know that to be true.
Granted, there may be a lot of physical activity, and sometimes rage or violence, but in general, just to look at someone, you would have no idea if they were manic or not.
That is, except for their eyes. Our eyes are indeed the windows to our soul, and, if you watch, they will show you just how manic someone is.
Who Am I?
Welcome back to Speaking Bipolar. This post is part 4 in the series where I am telling my story about surviving Bipolar Disorder. You can read the story from the beginning by clicking here.
Who am I? No one, really. I’m a single man in my forties trying to “keep it between the ditches,” as one of my friends would say.
I’m not an insightful oracle or guru, and I don’t have any mental health training. No, all I can share with you is my own experiences, and maybe, hopefully, that will be enough to help keep you going.
You see, there have been times when having mental illness with chronic illness on top of it (I also have Familial Mediterranean Fever) have made my life very dark. Each time, I have fought and conquered that darkness. This story is proof that things do get better as long as you never stop fighting.
Running From Everything
In part three, I talked about the reality of coming face to face with repressed memories. That experience was devastating and sent my whole world into chaos. Before the memories resurfaced, I knew that something wasn’t right with me, but after the revelation, it was a constant struggle to keep things together.
The reality of what had been done to me as a child had been too much to bear. I lashed out at my parents, thoroughly wrecking them emotionally, and then ran away.
I say, “ran away,” but not in the sense you might be thinking. I was twenty at the time, so plenty old enough to live on my own. However, when I left, I had nowhere to go, no plan as to what I would do.
It wasn’t long, but for a while, I was technically homeless. No, I can’t really say I know what it’s like to be homeless. I knew at any time that I could go back to my parent’s house. In the nights that I didn’t, I found friends to stay with or crashed on my sister’s floor in her apartment. I wasn’t really homeless, but in my mind, and at the time, I thought I was.
You Have to Run Farther
It wasn’t enough to not see my parents. Knowing that they were in the same town, just a few miles from any place I might be staying, was too much for me. They were the disease, and I had to separate myself from them as far as possible.
This is a common scenario when living with untreated manic depression. The Bipolar mind can become fixated on something, real or imagined, and make it the sole focus in life.
A friend of mine had been talking about moving to Tennessee. He wanted to live in the mountains. Then he made a trip to Tennessee and met a girl while he was there. It was quickly decided, he would move.
It wasn’t really my intention to move. I had always dreamed of living in the mountains, but my dream floated more near Colorado or Montana than the plateaus of Tennessee. I knew nothing of the South other than the tales Midwesterners sometimes make up.
When it was time to go, my friend asked me to drive his car so he could drive a U-Haul with the rest of his belongings.
Tennessee was a dream. It was an unusually cold summer in Wisconsin that year. It was late August, and there had only been about ten days that whole summer above 70-degrees. No, that is not a typo.
In Tennessee, the weather was beautiful. It was sunny and in the mid 80’s every day. I was sold. New friends I met in Tennessee asked me if I wanted to move there. Three weeks later, it was my home.
Making a New Life
I want to interject here that moving to Tennessee turned out to be a great decision. I went about it all wrong and hurt several people in the process, but in the end, it was the place I believe I was destined to reside.
So, I moved to Tennessee. I moved in with my friend from Wisconsin. That was a terrible mistake.
He was just as damaged as I was, both of us untreated. In some cruel irony, we both insisted on inflicting even more harm on the other.
At first, I didn’t know anyone else in the state other than my friend and his daughter and a few people I had met on my first trip down. Filled with purpose, I set out on a mission to create a new family for myself.
In a brutal fashion that can only be understood by someone with mental illness, I cut my family out of my life completely.
First, my parents, because it was their fault for everything wrong in the world. Next, my siblings had to go because they were guilty by association. Finally, even my friends in Wisconsin had to go because they were reminders of things I was choosing to forget.
As to the repressed memories, I wasn’t able to forget them again, and the resulting nightmares didn’t stop. Still, since almost no one in my new life knew about them, I was able to live as if everything in my life was perfect. The memories didn’t have to affect me, and I could pretend they weren’t real.
In time, I almost started to believe my own lie.
Friends Tried to Help
Before I left Wisconsin, some of my friends did try to help. Only a couple knew anything about the memories, but more than a few noticed that something was wrong.
One of my closest friends asked me to meet her at McDonald’s one night.
“I’m worried about you,” she told me. We were both twenty, and although we were like brother and sister, we weren’t mature enough yet to have a serious adult conversation.
“Don’t be,” I told her. I remember my smile was so big it almost hurt to keep it on my face. I was determined to show no weakness.
We talked on for some time about trivial things before she tried again.
“Your eyes are so big,” she finally blurted out. I laughed at her, so much so that I ended up hurting her feelings.
My eyes had betrayed me. I had Bipolar eyes, or “crazy eyes,” as I like to call them. They are something you have to see to understand.
Crazy eyes are more than just your eyes being open too far. There’s something else stirring in them dancing in the background that makes it clear to the viewer that all is not right in the world.
It would be years before I would see crazy eyes on someone else. At that moment, it was clear to me what my friend had seen that night that had made her so concerned about me and my well-being.
There were still many lessons to learn, though, and several more years before I would receive an accurate diagnosis. But, for the moment, life was good again.
Coming Up Next
Next time, I’ll share how my new life played out. Fantasy can only last so long, and eventually, I had to come face to face with my mental illness. Be sure to come back next week to read more.