Part 2 of the Surviving Bipolar series.
Read Part 1 here.
Part 2 – How the Speaking Bipolar Blog Came to Life
Trigger Warning: Depression, suicide, self-harm
Welcome back. Speaking Bipolar – Sharing My Story is an ongoing series where I share my personal experiences, good, bad, and ugly, with living with Bipolar Disorder.
Please note, I am not a mental health professional. If you or a loved one thinks something is wrong, please do not hesitate to get help from someone who is adequately qualified.
Are you thinking about ending it all? Read Make a Contract With Yourself to Keep Living and get help today.
This post will cover how the Speaking Bipolar blog came to life.
If you are new this series, you can read Part 1 by clicking here.
Who Am I?
To start, let me tell you a little about me.
My name is Scott, and I’m in my mid-forties. Yes, there are a few miles on these tires.
I battle every day with Bipolar Disorder and Familial Mediterranean Fever. My days revolve mostly around my job as a bookkeeper. Chronic illness gives me little strength for much of anything else.
This series is being written to offer hope to all those dealing with a mental illness or chronic illness diagnosis. Being diagnosed doesn’t mean that your life is over. Instead, a new life is beginning.
The goal is for this tale to provide validation and encouragement to at least one person. Maybe that person is you.
Now, let’s learn a little about this blog’s history.
A Joke Turns Serious
First off, I am blessed to know several people with Bipolar Disorder. I say “blessed” because I have a circle of friends I can go to that understand just what twisted things are often in my head. I can be my real self with them and not be judged.
Okay, so maybe I might be judged, but at least I know they understand where the craziness is coming from.
Several of us used to joke that there should be a language dictionary to translate for people who did not have Bipolar but had friends or relatives with the condition. In my mind, I started writing said dictionary. I decided I would call it Speaking Bipolar: A Mental Illness Translator.
For years, Speaking Bipolar was little more than a joke. It was something that would occasionally come up when I was with friends, but never anything I thought seriously about.
Bipolar Disorder Symptom Checklist
Life Events Change Me
As I shared in part one, a friend’s suicide changed things for me. I became more than a little obsessed with his death and the thought that maybe I could have done more to help him. Bipolar delusions made me think that I might even have been able to save him.
In reality, I don’t know if I could have or not, but the thought is still there.
Living with Bipolar means that you spend many nights not sleeping. Many, many nights.
Sometimes I watch TV or read to fill those long hours, but more often than not, I lie in bed in the dark and let my thoughts run wild. Typically, there’s no reigning them in if I tried.
Quite often, my thoughts would lead back to my friend. He was not the only friend I lost in such a tragic way. In fact, there is more than a dozen in that number now, and every time the phone rings I fear that number might grow.
At the time, I was relatively stable, living a productive life, and not unhappy. I should have been able to do something to help my friends before it was too late.
The more time that passed, the more I thought that maybe I could do something. Perhaps I could finally tell others about me and what Bipolar was really like. Possibly those experiences might help someone else and keep them from falling into the abyss.
Do I Have the Courage?
Living with mental illness is a struggle. It colors every interaction you have and dictates way too many of your activities and decisions.
All too often, people tend to view you differently when they know you have a mental illness diagnosis. I know now that this is also true for many, if not all, chronic illnesses, but for years I thought it was specific to mental illnesses only.
Bipolar can become your whole identity. Not by choice, mind you, but it can become the only label that people associate with you. It’s for that reason that many people living with mental illness seldom, if ever, talk about it.
This is something we all need to work on changing.
Add to that the false belief that mental disorders are a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. Men especially face this challenge, and far too many don’t seek help as a result.
I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to face the stigma, to meet the disapproving looks and comments, to be identified as being mentally ill.
But the more time that passed, the more I knew that if I could help just one person, any discomfort I might suffer would all be worth it.
The Third Time’s the Charm
Here’s a truth that no one knows. Speaking Bipolar is actually my third blog. Guess that truth is out in the world now.
The first blog only ever had one post. Fear kept me from posting more, and when it was time to renew the domain, I decided to just let it expire.
A voice deep inside my head wouldn’t let me rest, though, so I tried again.
Trepidation was still holding me back, so even though a second blog was started, it was not in my name. I decided to write under a pseudonym.
That blog gained some traction, but the more detail I had to create to make the fictitious me real, the less authentic the blog became. I don’t know if that came across to my readers, but that blog never took off, and in time, I shut it down as well.
Two blogs had come and gone, and no one had been helped. I was failing in my mission, and there were far too many other reasons in my life to feel like a failure. I was determined to make my blog a success.
The Real Me
Speaking Bipolar is about the real me. The experiences I share are real experiences, things that really happened in my life. The picture I share in my Gravatar image is my real picture. If you don’t have Gravatar or know what that is, you can see my picture below. (Not a great picture, mind you, but it’s me.)
Few things have been more terrifying than putting words down about the real me. With each step forward, though, something amazing and wonderful has happened.
I’m not the world’s greatest writer (you know you were thinking it) nor am I the best storyteller. Still, slowly over time, my words have touched people. Each time someone comments on a post or sends me an email saying how they have been affected by my words, my heart explodes.
Just today another reader reached out to let me know that my words had given her hope. I couldn’t be happier.
Still, fear was continuing to hold me back. There was more of the story that needed to be told.
What Bipolar Is Really Like
I touched on this a little in part one, but let me go into more detail. Suicidal thoughts are part of my everyday life. As far back as the fifth grade, if not earlier, I have always had a plan to end things.
Thoughts of self-harm are not the only truth to living with mental illness.
In my life, there have been times of real self-harm. I will share some of those stories in another post, but it’s a painful story and one that only two of my friends have heard so far.
Then there are the thoughts you can’t control.
I replay conversations hundreds of times in my head. Conversations from today, yesterday, and ten years ago.
I deconstruct and analyze every word that was spoken and every movement and gesture from the other person. This isn’t just a manic thing, but something that happens pretty much every single day. It fills much of the time I can’t sleep.
When I run out of conversations I’ve already had, then I start on conversations I need to have. I plan what I will say in any given situation and proceed to play out the conversation in my head. If it doesn’t feel right, I start over again and play the whole conversation again.
Still, No Words Spoken
The ironic thing is that even with all the preparation and all the planning of conversations in advance, when the time comes that I’m actually in a social setting and have the chance to have a real conversation with someone, more often than not I say nothing.
After all, isn’t everyone else judging every word that I say? Doesn’t everyone spend most of every night playing back every conversation they’ve ever had? Isn’t that normal?
If you have Bipolar, then yes, it is perfectly normal.
Wait, where was I going again? Getting lost is also part of Bipolar.
It Can Be a Scary Place in Here
It’s more than just conversations, though. That’s probably the easiest thing to relate to if you don’t understand firsthand what it’s like.
The Bipolar brain likes to do much, much more. Racing thoughts and delusions of grandeur are things that people often associate with Bipolar Disorder. While those things do happen, there is lots more.
My brain likes to play worst case scenario. It is not a fun game.
If someone is five minutes late getting somewhere, I just know they are dead.
If a friend doesn’t immediately come up to me at a gathering, I know I have upset them, and they now hate me.
When a friend doesn’t call me, then they weren’t really my friend anyway. On the other hand, if they do call me, then they are trying to smother me or need me to do something for them.
Yep, it’s often a no-win situation.
Still With Me?
Wait, have I completely overwhelmed you? Let me slow down.
I can type at incredible speeds, which is also the way my mind works, but I have to remember that many of you reading this, if not most of you, do not have a Bipolar brain, and as of yet, my mental illness translator is not complete.
My point is, the thoughts in my head are often complicated, for lack of a better word.
I know lots of the thoughts I contend with aren’t “normal” or “healthy,” but they are the truths of my daily life. That’s a truth I have hidden for many years, but for your sake, I will be sharing more about it in future posts.
For a long time, I didn’t know that other people thought this way or felt the things I do. I had no idea that people thought about how to end things even while planning to never do it.
It was only after I started speaking up that some of my friends said, “Hey, yeah, I feel that way too.”
Speaking Bipolar is a blog that now exists so that others might connect with what I’ve experienced. You are not alone anymore.
Until next time, keep fighting.
I was well into my twenties when I was finally diagnosed with manic depression as Bipolar Disorder was then known. Next time, I will tell you a little about what my life was like pre-diagnosis and how I knew that something was wrong.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy map to follow to guide our lives? That’s the subject of this poem video.