The last time I wrote in my blog I was on a real high. My mood has been so all over the place lately that I’m not sure how to judge the difference between mania and genuine happiness, or between chemical depression and just feeling down on life due to my circumstances.
I was reading back what I wrote in my diary around the ‘up’ periods and the ‘down’ periods and- even to me- it’s quite shocking how I can go to such different extremes in mood and over such a short space of time.
When I feel this way- either when I feel life is just the most amazing it has ever been, or when I feel that I just want to end it all because the psychological pain is too much to deal with- it seems incredibly real, in those moments. But then when I have a ‘normal’ moment or day, I realise that- particularly with the deep depressions- these extreme emotions are not at all realistic, and in fact they are completely out of the ordinary and mostly do not last very long.
Rather than writing about my experiences all over again (especially as I can hardly recall now how I felt at the time, since I have not been in my right mind), in this post I will copy and paste what I wrote in my diary on those occasions. The first real extreme I felt was one of feeling on top of the world, so I will begin with ‘The Light.’
“I have just had the most genuinely wonderful few days. After those very dark couple of days, all I had to do in the end was have faith; to have faith in life itself, but also in my newfound ‘Higher Power.’ I have to add here that I spent many years in Alcoholics Anonymous fighting the concept of a higher power, and then, somehow, after having not attended a meeting in almost two years and when I was least expecting to find any belief in anything ‘outside’ of this world, I find myself on my knees every night, full of gratitude and feeling as if something is looking after me and someone or something is hearing my Atheist prayers. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe nothing is listening and there’s no one ‘up there’, perhaps what has been happening is just as a result of the power of my own mind, but suddenly I have found comfort in believing I am never alone, not at any single moment. Hey, if ‘praying’ is working for me, I’m going to carry on doing as I have been doing.
Maybe it all sounds a little spacey and ‘out there,’ but I really do feel as if my life changed a couple of days ago, forever, and so much for the better. Nothing literal or physical happened, other than some kind of a powerful mental trip. Anyone can say that I have been ‘ill’ or manic or not in my right mind, or out of touch with reality, but no one can take these memories away from me, nor can they rob me of the memory I have of the way I felt for those precious few of hours the other day.
Admittedly, I have been rapid cycling quite extremely for about a month now, and I have certainly had my moments of madness, as well as my moments of sheer darkness and desperation. Normally- when it comes to mania and depression- I go up and then down with my mood swings, but for the first time ever I went down and then up this time.
This particular ‘episode’ began a couple of days ago when I went to see my friend at his flat at about 2 in the morning. I hadn’t really slept for a few days anyway, which is always dodgy for me and often causes me to go off on one, as I describe it. I spent until 7am there with him, touching on every possible deep subject and exercising my philosophical brain, which I have really missed out on since leaving university.
As I walked home and admired the sunrise with a guitar under my arm and a renewed kind of hope in my once broken heart, I knew a high was on its way. I was physically run down; exhausted and withdrawing from two days without lithium, but my mind was on fire.
I drank more coffee in my fluffiest onsie and watched a series for a couple of hours when I got home, feeling very much at peace with both myself and the world. I realised it would be an easy thing for me to go on a downer as a result of my physical state that day, so I decided to make the effort to spend the whole day out.
I made myself a positive playlist on my phone and set out again by 12. As I walked over the bridge to go into town, I listened to Bittersweet Symphony, and as soon as the bass kicked in and the sun came out of the clouds in that same moment, I was off. Off into my own beautiful little world and I stayed in that state for several hours.
I count myself very lucky at present to live on an island where the beach is always only around the corner, and in this manic state I realised that was exactly where I needed to be. I made my way down to the seafront; cigarette and energy drink in hand, with my inspiring music in my ears as loud as it would go. I sat on the wall, with the wind in my hair and watching the wild, busy waves crash up against the shore and I felt as if they moved in time with my music. Everything seemed so vibrant, bright and colourful, like never before and like I had been given a new pair of eyes and I could see a beauty in the world that I had never experienced in my life. The lyrics to every song in my playlist appeared to all make absolute perfect sense, and like the musicians were singing to me, live.
It was as if my whole body was buzzing and more alive than ever. Sat there, I had this stark realisation that you don’t need anything or anyone to bring you true happiness- it is all about the power of the mind and perception. I realised that nothing at all had changed in my life from that moment back to the darkness I felt just 48 hours before, curled up in a ball on my bed, crying desperately for hours on end and only wanting to die to end the pain and suffering. Nothing had changed, and yet everything seemed the exact opposite.
I also saw this island in a completely new light. I- like most young people living here- must admit that I moan about this place a lot; about how boring and isolating it is. But I was looking across at the cliffs and watched the shadows move slowly across them as the sun made its way in and I thought ‘Wow. How have I been underappreciating this beauty so much? I am surrounded by nature and just absolute beauty and solitude.’ So I realised it is not such a bad thing if I have to stay here a while longer.
I had a bit of a reality check when I walked back into the town and away from the beach. When I took off my headphones and walked into Boots it was like I had entered another planet. Suddenly everything was a lot more real and a lot more serious and I wasn’t in my own, perfect world anymore. I didn’t like that much.
But by the time I got on the bus to another town (freezing to death by this point) I was able to put my happy playlist back on and watch the world go by and I felt… Free. I spent from then on feeling like I was an animal that had managed to escape from a zoo after about ten years of being locked up and tortured. And it seems like it really has been that way since I was about 16, when I became anorexic and severely depressed. Most of the torturing has been self-inflicted though.
Now I feel like if I can just hang onto that memory, to that feeling I had on the beach, and recall it as often as I can and remember that most of my worries and fears are all in my mind and I have the power within me to transcend them… Then I will be ok. I might well be ok for the rest of my life if I can hold onto that. It sounds really idealistic and overly optimistic- perhaps- but I have never felt anything more real than I did in those sacred moments.
Now I know how powerful perception is, now I know that I do not need physical circumstances to change the way I feel to such an extreme, what more could I possibly ask for from life?
No one can take the memory of this feeling away from me. This memory is mine forever and I can go back to it whenever I wish. That is quite something, quite a gift, is it not?
… What the hell have I been doing since then? All I can recall is being happy… Really, actually, genuinely happy in every moment of every day. I don’t know what is going on or what has changed in me but I could really get used to feeling this way. It is not something I am used to, which is kind of sad, but at the moment I just grasp every moment of it. I never know when darkness might sweep back in (although I fucking hope not) so I just make the most of it.
I’m beyond grateful and literally on my knees every night with overwhelming gratitude lately.”
“I will say it again: Today I am so grateful for everything I have in my life. Tomorrow I may be miserable, I cannot predict my mood or my circumstances, not ever, but I can live in today and if today is a good day, then I am Happy.”
And then the darkness swept in.
I did not manage to write down my experiences and the way I was feeling when I went very low, as it is hard to do anything at all during those times other than cry and literally beg the universe to help me, somehow. During those desperate times, I find myself looking to the skies and asking for a miracle of some sort; a miracle that will turn everything back around. But in the end it is my inner strength that breaks the cycle of sadness, it just takes a little while for me to regain my faith in myself and in life itself. But I always do it; I always dig myself back out of the hole in the end.
Although I was unable to document it at the time, I can much more easily recall my depressive thoughts and feelings than I can remember exactly how I feel when I’m hypomanic or manic.
I can tell you that I spent days on end- maybe one week- crying constantly, alone in my room, trying to drown out the sound of my tears with loud music, sometimes even reaching hysteria through such deep, uncontrollable sadness. After my ‘experience’ on the beach that day, I somehow suddenly lost touch with that feeling of hope and optimism, and I started to feel (again) that just about everything that could possibly go wrong in my life, went wrong all at once. I felt as if there was no point to my life anymore, if I could not find real happiness. I felt a great deal of self-hatred and like everyone around me was rejecting me on some level, and that that was probably because I’m a terrible person.
One night, after having fallen apart in front of my parents in the kitchen that morning when it all finally got too much, I noted how much sedating medication I had stocked up and I wrote a suicide note. I’m not entirely sure if I knew what I was doing when I wrote that, whether I was going to top myself that night or whether I was testing myself.
It took me almost two hours to write the note; saying ‘goodbye’ to everyone I could think of that I cared about, even if I felt as if no one of this earth cared for me. What happened afterwards was a combination of tragedy and beauty. I got to the end, signing off with a David Bowie lyric (‘Ground control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead…’), I read it back, from the beginning, and I wept with relief and joy. I realised that I love too many people to leave them all behind. No matter how much I may ever feel that I am unloved and unwanted by people, I have an endless amount of love in my heart, and I really care. I also realised there had been some incredibly happy times in my life recently, full of laughter and spent with wonderful people.
And so I decided to survive.
And then I wrote this…
“I’m not sure if I like it or I hate it. At least there is always (always) an element of unpredictability to my life, excitement, even. How things can just change so drastically in an instant. I guess it goes like this: It is terribly, awfully SHIT when I can go down (down, down, down) for practically no reason, all of a sudden and stay that way for hours on end. But when I go from that level of depression and desperation to being happy or just ‘alright’ again in a second, well that is pretty darn great.
Today, once again, I reached a level of complete darkness and hopelessness, curled up in a ball on my bed, with loud music pouring out of my speakers and out of my open window, completely alone in the world, or so I thought. I could not tell you exactly why I went this low. It happened yesterday too, but yesterday I was so numb of all emotion I could not bring myself to cry. Today I thought things would be the same way, but as soon as a particular song came on, that was it, I was off, balling my eyes out and wanting the ground to swallow me, and I cried like that for at least an hour, maybe two but I could not even move to see the time let alone function in any way.
But at some point the tears suddenly stopped. I felt a strange buzzing sensation across my body, and I felt- in some odd, inexplicable way- ‘someone’ or ‘something’ was with me, and I saw the light. I saw that the way I lose touch with reality is not really real; and therefore my extreme emotions are not really real. I saw that things might be ok later or tomorrow. And fortunately at this point I received a phone call from Jules. Someone who loves me. Someone who really does care, I know that. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to call me in my hour of need. He didn’t need to say anything specific to cheer me up, I just knew inside that he gets me; he has seen it all. He knows about my illness and how totally irrational my mood swings are and he has had to pick up the pieces many times after these episodes. So we talked, about many things- small talk- not just about my feelings, for quite some time. Within fifteen minutes my voice went back to normal (I stopped sounding like a man) and the swelling in my eyes reduced and he said ‘you sound better after our chat.’ At this point I wanted to thank him as he couldn’t have known what he did for me, just by being there on the end of the phone. Perhaps I should have, but instead I just made it clear, subtly, that our conversation had no less than brought me back to the light.
Sometimes, when I’m actually ok and more myself, I want to tell other hopeless people that the light is always present in all our lives, it’s just that our mental vision gets clouded and we don’t notice it for a while. I spend much of my life unable to recognise that the light is always there, which is very sad, but I have no control over that. What I do always know, deep down, even in the dark moments, is that things do always get better.
There’s proof in my life that bipolar is a horrible illness and it can take over everything. It can be the end of you; it has so almost been the end of me a lot of times. I guess I am one of the lucky ones? But there is also plenty of proof in my life that people like me can survive this illness- not just on the whole- but on a daily basis. Just look at my mind working away again now- One hour ago I could not open my eyes nor breathe through my tears.
I want to remind myself, here, that the next time I think that light has gone out, it has not, it never does, I just have to keep my eyes open and believe that I will soon see it once again.”