So word came today that my uncle (also bipolar) is in the hospital. Not the mental kind, just a hospital. He has cancer and isn’t doing well. When they tested him his Lithium level was .1 away from toxic. He hasn’t been eating or sleeping.
A few weeks back I had told my mom I wished his answer to everything wasn’t religion. I tried to talk to him when I was younger and the result was a plaque with bible quotes to “help” me. I’m agnostic. It didn’t help. I’ve always wished I could talk to him though. He’s my only blood relative that might understand, might have some advice that isn’t “it’ll be okay” or “just get over it” or varying degrees of suggestions that are useless. Or even just someone to share experiences with.
I’m starting to think maybe I should reach out one more time. I always want to but the thought of hearing scripture has stopped me. Now that there’s a possibility that the chance might be gone forever I’m reconsidering.
I’d like to ask if it ever got easier. If as time wears on the swings are less often, less severe, or even just easier to tolerate because you’re so used to them. If ever he felt as isolated from everyone else in the family as I do because we’re not like everyone else. I’d like to know more about his experiences. I don’t know a lot because his wife is controlling and likes to overmedicate him and pretend he’s just sleepy a lot and doesn’t have an illness. I have a hard time being around them and seeing him comatose and her belittling him if he mentions anything a little off the path of “normal.” He’s a passive guy, especially so considering most bipolars I’ve met are just the opposite. He takes the meds, doesn’t talk about his problems, and they both pretend like the bad times just never happened.
What I think I’d like to know most is now, with more years of experience than I have, if he looks back – would he change it if he could? What would he have done differently or the same?
I guess I wonder this because sometimes I think if they ever do find some magic shot or pill that truly makes bipolar cease to be in a person that I might not want it. Not that I think being bipolar is fun. Most days I really hate it. Manic, depressed, baseline – the words “I just want to be normal” come from my mouth a lot. The thing is, all the crap I go through makes me who I am. Most days if you ask me I’d say I like me. I don’t like the swings that made me this person, but I do like the person they’ve produced. Mostly.
Without problems how do you grow as a person? How do you become stronger and better at dealing with things? The people I know who have lived very happy lives with very few problems seem naive to me. Sometimes even uneducated.
The problems we have, bipolar or otherwise, shape who we become. When I look back I try to accept the bad things that have happened to me (small or large) and the bad things I’ve done and be thankful for them because each instance no matter how small it may have been taught me something.
There’s a cute book I have for my son called Zen Shorts. It has a story about a farmer who loses a horse and the neighbors say “such bad luck” and he responds “maybe.” Then the horse comes back and brings another with it. They say “such good luck” and he says “maybe.” The next day his son tries to ride the wild horse and breaks his leg. The neighbors say “such bad luck” and again he says “maybe.” The next day army officials come to find boys to draft for the military and pass his son up because of the broken leg. Once again “such good luck” from the neighbors and a “maybe” from the farmer.
The moral of which is sometimes bad things have to happen for good things to happen and vice versa. “You never know what will happen next” is what the book says. I like what the story teaches. I wish I could be more zen about my life all the time.
So now, coming down from mania, I’m kinda glad it happened. I watched what it did to my son and it made me more dedicated to my own health. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m getting closer every day. I look at the shambles our finances are in right now and I’m upset that I let things get so out of control, but I’m sure I can fix them. Hopefully. My husband was more supportive than ever and I think we made a lot of progress in our relationship over these past few months. I found a doctor that seems to get it which is something I thought I’d lost forever after I got kicked out of pediatrics. The mania itself was hell. Certainly not one of those “euphoric manias” that seem to cycle in for me a lot less often than the dysphoric ones. A lot of bad things have happened because of it, but some really good things have too.
I’m sure when I get depressed this clarity of mind will go to hell, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can. But I would like to know if after a lifetimes of this illness – can you still see any good in it? Can you look back at a lifetime of crazy and be grateful for who you are because of it or does it drain you to the point where all you see if a lifetime of swings and madness with nothing positive left to find?