I feel intense joy. I feel intense sadness. I am not a “happy person” or a “sad person”—I am both! I don’t fit in a box. I don’t think anyone really does. Let me try to explain what is going on in my mind.
I have bipolar 1 disorder. Clinically, I am “insane”. But I’m not that much different from you. Have you ever felt so much JOY that you felt you would burst? That’s what mania feels like to me! I feel like dancing and singing and praising the Lord! It feels like falling in love all over again. I can’t stop smiling! I feel so loved and so loving. I laugh easily, because life is a comedy! I talk fast and run fast and can’t sit still—I want to share my joy with everyone around me! I feel like a child again.
When I am in a manic state, I feel like talking to every stranger and hugging and kissing my family and friends. I am confident and outgoing. I know who I am and I feel that I have so much to share with the world! I didn’t know that I was capable of feeling so much happiness! I am so full of love and light. I can’t contain it—it comes spilling out in words and hugs and praise and tears. I cry tears of pure joy!
When I am manic, the future looks bright! I feel strong and confident and excited and powerful, like nothing in the world can stop me from accomplishing my dreams. My faith in myself and in God is stronger than ever. I can sense the great potential of my own mind. I am full of brilliant ideas and the words just flow. I feel that there is no limit to what I can accomplish if I put my mind to something!
The hard part of mania is choosing a focus and a direction. It’s hard to stop or slow down. I feel like it’s “full speed ahead!” and no brakes! On the outside, I know it looks strange. I am distracted and full of energy and running around, obsessing or hyper-focusing on things that call for my attention. I bounce from one thing to the next. I write. I talk. I exercise. I laugh. I make love to my husband. I dance and sing with my children. I pray out loud. I reach out. I make a new friend. I express my creativity. So many thoughts and ideas are trying to grab for my attention. It can be overwhelming and confusing! There are so many possibilities and so many outlets! I don’t care about eating or sleeping. I’m having too much fun! I want to do it all, but I know this state won’t last forever. I have to choose how to best expend my energy in a positive way and hope that my joy adds a little bit more light to the world. I feel it and embrace it. I try not to scare people and to stay in control. I don’t want them to be afraid. This is just me feeling joy! And then depression hits.
Have you ever felt so sad that you just wanted to curl in a ball and cry? Have you ever been so hurt that you couldn’t put your feelings into words? Have you ever had negative thoughts in your head that tell you horrible things about yourself? Have you ever doubted your abilities, or even your innate goodness? Have you ever had a scary nightmare, then woke up with a sigh of relief when you realized it wasn’t real?! That is what depression feels like to me.
Depression is scary and draining and debilitating and miserable. My perspective about myself and the world around me drastically changes. I am filled with self-doubt and self-loathing. I feel like nobody loves me or cares whether I live or die. I feel like I have nothing to offer the world. Life is a tragedy and there is no hope. I try to push away the dark thoughts and remember what it felt like to feel happy. I try to pray. I try to remember the happy Becky. The confident Becky. The funny Becky. The loving Becky. I try to remember who I am, while someone is screaming in my ear that I am horrible and dangerous and evil and bad and that I am going to die. It is absolutely terrifying!!
There are parts of this illness that I want to share with you and parts that I want to keep hidden. But I am tired of hiding! Too many people are hiding and suffering in silence. I want you to know the real me! It exists somewhere in between the highs and the lows. Can you see the real Becky? Can you love me, even when I’m a bit erratic? Can you love me when I am depressed? Can you remind me of who I really am when I can’t see it? Can you laugh and dance with me when I am manic? Can you forgive me for my outbursts? Can you withhold judgment, when my behavior just doesn’t make sense to you (or maybe even scares you)? I’m just trying to figure all of this out! I am trying to find balance. I am trying to be the real me!
I feel that my true state is much closer to my manic side. I am a happy person! I am full of love! I want to make friends! I want to write a book someday! I am optimistic about the future! I love to sing! I feel like dancing! God lives and He loves me! I am His precious daughter. I have part of His divinity and goodness in me! I have gifts to share! There is light in me and I want to share it with the world!
This illness does not define me. But it is teaching me. It is helping me to discover the real Becky. It is helping me to discover my innate gifts. It is forcing me to face my fears. It is opening my heart to love. It is changing me as a person. If you call for help, I’ll come running! I know what it feels like to feel completely hopeless! I know what it feels like when suicidal thoughts attack. I know what it feels like to feel judged and misunderstood. I know what it fills like when the depression lifts and happiness returns. I know how to help you come back. I can see you—the REAL you! I want to remind you of your strengths! I want to talk you through a panic attack. I want to hold your hand through a dark depression. I want to rejoice with you when you are happy and cry with you when you are sad. I love you!!
That is what I am learning from this illness—empathy! I’d gladly go through it all again, just to be able to understand you. Just to be able to help you. You, who face the darkness! You, who contemplated giving up on life! You, who have either doubted or felt your true potential! You, who just need to be loved! You, who are hiding! You, who need a friend who understands! You, who are struggling just to get through today! You, who doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring! I promise that you can get through this! You are not alone, and we are in this together! We can help each other along the way. You strengthen and inspire me. You are walking with me. We can do this! Keep fighting! Animo!! (It’s my favorite word in Spanish—look it up!)