It seems cruelly appropriate that as I write this, I am very, very sick — really no better time to tackle this head on, I suppose.
Hello, my name is Kate, and I have bipolar disorder.
Just a quick rundown for those of you who don’t know, bipolar is a mood disorder that is quite erroneously named — you’d think you’d be either happy or sad (and according to popular culture, violent, when in fact bipolar sufferers are far more like to be the victims of violent behaviour than the perpetrators!) at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t quite work like that. There are certainly things that can trigger moods from one thing to another, but that’s semi-rare. With bipolar disorder, there are generally five states a sufferer can be in:
- depressive, which can range from mild (sad, but able to function) to very severe (completely unable to function at all, including but not limited to: getting out of bed, eating, showering, or talking to anyone in my case); severe depressive phases are dangerous and there is a high suicide risk when a bipolar sufferer is going through one of these.
- manic, which is…think three-year-old on red cordial. If not crack cocaine. Thoughts race, sleep isn’t needed, energy goes through the roof, irresponsible decisions regarding money, sex, people, and just life in general are made. People who are manic can seem like they’re taking illicit substances.
- hypomanic, which is “below mania”, as the etymology would suggest: you’re bright eyed and bushy-tailed, outgoing and unafraid, but not to the point of manic dangerousness. In my experience, hypomania is wonderful — I feel more confident, in control of my life, and ready to tackle anything. If I could choose, I’d be hypomanic all the time. The downside is that hypomania is exhausting at the end of the day, so you need to get to bed early and try and get a decent sleep.
- stable, which is functioning normally like anyone else would. It’s a nice feeling! ;P
- mixed state, which could be, for example, mania mixed with depression. Depression mixed with hypomania, hypomania with stability, and so on and so forth. Mixed states are tricky. They can blend the best of things with the worst of things, and put you completely on edge. I personally can’t really stand them, I’ll be feeling sad all day yet too energetic to need any sleep for 48 hours or more, et cetera. But I would still prefer a mixed state over being depressive.
This isn’t going to be a rundown of what my disease does to me and how it affects my daily life; that’s an entry for one of my other blogs (which, sadly, I won’t be linking here. Anonymity can be a pain, ne?). This is how it affects my spiritual life, my worship, and my relationships with my gods.
I suppose the thing that bugs me most of all is that when I go to sleep at night, I literally have no idea how I’ll feel in the morning — and should the next morning be a day of celebration? What then? Could all my careful planning for a greatly anticipated Winter Solstice celebration mean absolutely nothing, because I can’t get out of bed, literally? Could a week’s worth of ignoring an upcoming holy day because I can hardly concentrate on breathing suddenly be changed sharply because on the actual day, I feel fine….or more than fine? There is no constancy in my life at all, and it frustrates me that this includes my spiritual life.
Depressive phases and manic phases have a tendency to knock the godphone right off the hook, too — and I’m one of those annoying types of people that seems to get clear reception nearly all the time…when I’m healthy. With hypomanic phases it isn’t so bad (I’d venture to say that reception is super-clear when I’m hypomanic), but introduce mania and all I can hear is myself echoing in my head. Depression’s exactly the opposite, but it’s sad echoes, not joyous ones.
Sometimes…okay, the majority of the time, seeing as I’m virtually anonymous I might as well be honest…I hate myself for having this disease, for having no constancy, for hurting friends and family members without the slightest intent, for confusing them and making them upset. I’ve often gone to Anpu in tears, apologising over and over for being…well, being me. And He has always, firmly, but gently, told me that I have nothing to apologise for, when it comes to my disease. I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t encourage it; I stay as healthy as possible, treat my mind and my body well.
When I started to follow Loki, things got interesting. He also insisted that apologising for having an illness was “utterly stupid”, but He has also insisted on having me work to realise that I am not my disease. I am not Kate-with-bipolar, I am simply Kate. I may have bipolar, and it may be a pain in my arse, but it does not define me. Flame-hair also encouraged me to either cut out of my life or ignore the people who do define me by my sickness. It’s been difficult; incredibly difficult. But I think I’m getting there, slowly. (He has also told me to never hide behind my illness, either. For some reason, you’d think that would have been much more difficult than no longer associating with aforementioned people, but it was in fact much easier. But there’ll be more on that in Loki’s own entry for the PBP.)
The Valar have been with me for so long that they — especially Vana, who I’ve grown very close to over the past few years — are simply “used to it”, for lack of a better phrase. It’s been difficult for me to accept that I have Gods who love me even though on some holy days, I’m curled up in a little ball wishing I was dead with nothing else on my mind except how awful I am. Unconditional love, especially after the bout of emotional/mental abuse I went through from 2005 to 2010, is almost something I have trouble believing in. I still have my doubts that human beings are even capable of it. But whenever I’ve turned to Estë, desperate for some peace in rest, or to Vana, craving joy, they have always been there without fail. When I’ve looked out my window and spotted an eagle, far-off, I know Manwë still hears my prayers, even if they’re brokenly-worded and don’t make much sense.
For that, of course, I love them all so dearly.