By Kerry Valkyrie Baldock Kelly
So you want to know about Bipolar? I will tell you, without poems, stories or empathy because with the best will in the world you will NEVER understand this illness. I have tried and failed with creative words to explain it, so I am going to resort to plain and simple facts. Bipolar is an illness — it has symptoms. I am sorry that those symptoms do not usually manifest in physical illness, I am sorry you most cannot see them, but know this; you do see them. You see them in behaviour, in thought and most of all in the pain of the sufferer. I cannot continue to use the word “survivor” because we barely survive — we struggle to survive! We suffer.
Bipolar has an extremely high mortality rate, with death exceeding that of depression, lupus, diabetes, and in some cases cancer. I am sorry to give you the harsh honest truth, but there it is. Bipolar sufferers endure life — they do not live it. They cannot live life because every moment is driven by forces that are beyond control.
The pain of bipolar is unreal, every single day the pain is unreal. The mind flicks to so many levels. The brain lights up with a cruel inexplicable energy that drives beyond the psychology of motivation.
Medication can alleviate some of the symptoms at the cost of the individual often losing all feeling and becoming essentially zombified, impervious to the delights of the world and trapped in numbness. Psychotherapists do not listen, they clock watch and are paid a ridiculous amount of money for doing so. The symptoms themselves shape the life of the sufferer.
People living with bipolar disorder cannot live a normal life, cannot experience reality as it is experienced for others, because they are trapped in this cruel mind-set. Bipolar sufferers are not malicious, unkind or difficult. They would not intentionally cause pain or hardship, in fact most sufferers are extremely empathetic, meaning they feel the pain of others and as such would not dream of deliberately causing harm.
People living with bipolar disorder hurt all of the time. It is a pain that there is absolutely no medication or help for, it is an ache in the soul, a sadness that will not shift. Whether in the depths of despair or the peak of mania that pain remains. It makes them vulnerable, trusting and naïve. It is a sting that cannot be shifted by any reasonable method. At times it is unendurable, intolerable. It drives the sufferer to seek an outlet and share that pain with the world, but the world cannot understand. Most people lack the emotion to have any comprehension of these feelings and yet we, the most emotive of sufferers are deemed divergent because we have the ability to comprehend the human condition.
The greatest, most creative minds have suffered from this ailment and the result has been the most comprehensive works of art and pieces of fiction by those who are afflicted, made infamous by others who can just about understand. A sufferer will show people their pain through artistic license, but would never intentionally hurt another, contrary to Hollywood cinema!
What then causes the suffering of a person living with bipolar? In truth I do not know! A drive perhaps, motivation, excess energy, misunderstanding by and large and vulnerability; the depression of bipolar comes on largely as fatigue, introverted escapism and a bleak need for solace. The mania side can be and often is much more treacherous because the sufferer will seek that distraction by stepping into the void, the unknown, from which there is often no escape.
Even those who know that the sufferer has bipolar disorder will seldom assist someone in this state simply because they erroneously assume that the victim is in a state of elation not darkness. Others will take advantage and encourage the person to go astray.
Without a doubt, bipolar disorder is cyclic in nature because the fall subsequently hits and the ravine is stepped from without guide nor ladder. This is the nature of the illness; this is the impossible cycle from which there is no escape. The leap is made, the real cruel aspect here is that the sufferer sees it coming, they are not blind, there is no peripeteia or anagnorisis because the victim expects this, knows it is imminent, but is unable to prevent or avoid it. This is their hubris.
The sufferer will knowingly march themselves to the edge of the precipice, terrified eyes wide open; knowing that there is no escape nor exodus and without the support of a hand to guide them away because it is not in the personal interest of those who should lend sustenance to do so or they chose to ignore the indicators out of selfish need or disinterest. The alleged loved ones therefore aid the sufferer in their death march and often give a good thrust over the crag and there the victim will hit the rocks, rock bottom until alone they drag themselves to the peak once again stuck in a malignant cycle with few non-fatal escapes.
This is the nature of my illness, this is the nature of those with bipolar disorder — an eternal cycle of suffering.