Being Bipolar and Alone Isn't Poetic or Romantic
Go to the ocean. The ocean may have been calling or I might have simply been talking to myself. But somewhere in my head a voice said, "go to the ocean."
I went because I thought the warm sun might feel good on exposed skin. Skin that hadn't felt a breath in weeks.
The beaches here aren't like the postcard-perfect vistas of Hawaii, they don't have imported, pea-size gravel, like those of Monaco, and they don't have the azure water and latte froth sands of Venezuela; but I like them just fine.
Here we have navy and teal water butted up against fist-sized rocks, sun-bleached and strengthened driftwood, framed by often slimy kelp. Every surface is difficult to walk on and inevitably I fall. Someone's wet dog always seems to find me irresistible.
But I like it just fine. It's a West Coast beach. It's where I come from. It's who I am.
A Life With Bipolar Disorder Is Lonely
I am the only person here alone. I am always the only person alone. People have brought friends, lovers, children, and dogs, but I, as ever, have no one to bring. I sit with stones digging into me and kelp's slime drying onto my sleeve, to watch the people. The people with lives. I don't have a life. I can only watch life pass by. Observe it. Like a specimen in a lab.
I try to read a book or think of the over-romanticized notion that this loneliness is simply fodder for the writer in me. But I'm not 21 any more. I'm past the point where it's poetic to be alone, knowing that I have all the time in the world to create a web of relationships. Being alone isn't romantic or just a convenient pretense for ennui. It's just lonely. And increasingly pathetic.
I have spent depressed years crying on this beach and no one has ever walked up and sat down next to me. No one has ever asked why I am crying, sometimes wailing, at the sea. I'm sure it's because they are there, on the beach, with Someone. I'm sure it's because with Someone to focus on, my pain is easily ignored, dismissed. If I had Someone, maybe I could ignore it too.
No, of course this isn't true. I know a convenient lie when I write one.
Once Bipolar, Always Bipolar
It's too easy to pick what you don't have and assume that its acquisition would fix everything; would fix a life broken by tears, knives, sickness, and sorrow. But it won't. Having obtained it, there would simply be another brass ring to hopelessly reach for. Broken would still be broken. Sick would still be sick. Nothing gets you better except getting better. Being better.
In bipolar disorder, this is being "in remission". You never get to be not bipolar. You get remission from illness. For a while you're "better". You remit. Until you don't.
And I don't.
Tracy, N. (2010, June 6). Being Bipolar and Alone Isn't Poetic or Romantic, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/06/being-bipolar-and-alone-isnt-poetic-or-romantic
Author: Natasha Tracy
the moon will lift from your heart
the judges will all be silenced
firefly flicker in the night
firefly flicker in the night
firefly flicker in the night
This blog poster is obviously a highly intelligent person, but I really feel she's missing the boat. And although I understand her feeling of hopelessness (maybe not personally in the exact same way, but I do get it) and acknowledge its validity, there is a point at which we as human beings struggling with mental illness have to step up to the plate.
I have OCD so severe I've been on the brink of suicide. I'm an innately joyful, energetic person, but it destroys my life functionality and leaves me in a constant state of terror of messing up my organizational schemes and losing control. It comes with tons of stigma and misunderstanding, with people either seeing it as a joke or downright thinking I'm nuts. I've been judged, fired, and cast aside for having it. I've tried SSRI's and ERP (CBT) therapy and get nowhere. Even had therapists tell me they "gave up on me."
I also have Borderline Personality Disorder. But I'm working on myself, appreciating its good sides and admitting/trying to change the bad. Nonetheless, with that label I face an often immediate judgment from people. We live in a world where supposedly these things are accepted and understood, yet we're encouraged not to disclose them to employers, new friends, or romantic prospects. Certainly BPD has caused me to treat people wrongly and act very dysfunctional. But people seem to have no problem equating it to sociopathy, calling me such slurs as "toxic," "manipulative," "sick," "broken," etc. There is not much empathy for the people who have BPD, but those who have had to deal with them get coddled like the poor victims of the evil BPD women.
I have lost years of my life to OCD/ADHD, and dear relationships (for now) due to my BPD and their Bipolar. I have had damage done to my self-esteem through bullying, exclusion, and alienation because I suspect myself of being somewhat autistic/Aspberger's. No matter how hard I try to be normal, I always stick out like a sore thumb.
Trust me. I get what it's like to feel like a victim. I spend time in self-pity and desolation. I have reservoirs of anger and resentment. I ask, why me? What did I do to deserve this?
But at the same time, for myself and for the betterment of the world around me, I have to be the one to empower myself with the gift of free will and autonomy. A person is defined not by what life hands them, but by what they do with it. Do we have varying degrees of ability to fix our own problems? Ok, yes, we do. Some are just always going to have an easier time of it than others. But ultimately, you do still have a choice. A self-defeating attitude is like the bed you want to crawl into. Stay there for a while, but you have to get up and go outside eventually. Do not willingly believe the negativity your brain is feeding you about yourself. And make that decision to start healing the wounded parts of yourself. From the one who never fit in... You may not know what's going on in the heads of those people on the beach. Their apparent perfection may be a surface illusion. But reach out to find solace in others, and find that we are only as lonely as we choose to be.
I've actually written about approaching the subject of one having a mental illness. However, it is on my personal blog and is no way affiliated with HealthyPlace. You can find the article here: http://natashatracy.com/mental-illness-issues/tell-someone-mental-illness/
If it were me I would start by asking not-too-obvious leading questions like - so how are you feeling? Is that normal for you? and so forth. Get them thinking about their own behaviour. Otherwise all you can do is be a friend, and encourage them to get help. The right way to do this is to keep your support going. Don't try to fill in the role of a professional. This can be very damaging to a friendship.
I had a friend who tried so hard to remedy my problems for me, because she had trained as a counsellor, and when it didn't work she gave up on the friendship entirely. Not helpful for either of us.
People with mental illness really need friends, just to be friends.
Could you tell me exactly WHAT is the correct way to approach the subject, with out getting such a response, or causing offence?
I'm in constant therapy and while it does seem to help when Im in a session, it quickly fades as I drive back down the highway to my apt. I hear those stories of how people thrive and have families, jobs, friends, etc..I cant even imagine that. Outside of my family, I've completely lost touch with my old friends/close relationships. My biggest fear is that I will always feel/be alone. I cannot bare living the next 40yrs of my life this way.
My mental state is always off balance. Im mentally uncomfortable most of the day, wanting to tear out of my skin. When Im not severely depressed, other issues about my health, body, etc. take over and throw me back down into the pit.
I want to work again, but Im socially awkward inside. I can pull off being normal infront of someone just long enough for me to pass as normal, but I couldn't consistently do that in the same environment very long. Sometimes I wonder if this is solely my illness at work, or is it all my other fears and issues I have that creates the overall monster.
I pray everyday for peace, and at some point in the day I'll feel it for a little while before the hopelessness comes back. Im convinced if I weren't living alone and had a warm body beside me every night, that it would somehow be a lot easier to handle all of this. I miss having companionship on an intimate level (not necessarily sexual either) just someone there.
Anyway, I saw this forum and decided I would vent. Thank you for having a place for those of us that need an outlet.
I'm sorry to hear things are so bad for you right now. I would just encourage you to remember one thing - you are not alone. Many people out there are feeling exactly the way you do and are waking up every day dealing with what you do. I can understand that you might feel no one is supporting you, but still, that doesn't mean you're alone.
You are worthy of good relationships. We all are. You are human, just like everyone else. You get things right, you may mistakes and you get back up and try again. Just because you feel like you've failed in the past that doesn't make you unworthy in the future.
People have a hard time trusting their own intuition after certain situations have occurred. It has certainly happened to me, and I know it happens to people all over. You are not alone in that.
Yes, social life seems like one, huge ball of difficulty, but you're looking at too much all at once. Try to focus on small changes you _can_ make. If you feel like you neglect people, then write yourself reminders about it. I know that sounds clinical, but maybe that's what you need to start moving into a new direction. Start with something small. Something you can control.
You will likely make more mistakes and find more problems, but you can change. You can create positive relationships in your life. It's not easy, but you _can_ do it. But it will take time. Try not to pressure yourself or beat yourself up when you misstep.
You might consider getting some therapy to help. Some therapy focuses on relationships and life skills and that might be perfect for you. That way you will have support behind you as you try to make a change.
There's a wealth of info here, some of it might be helpful.
You do not have to be alone, drop me a line. I assume you can get to the email I put in above. I already feel less alone by reading this.
If you would be so kind, do not heap shame on the depressed by comparing them unfavorably to Vietnam POWs. I know you were trying to do that in order to inspire hope, but this is her illness talking, not her. She can't take care of you and write an inspirational monthly blog when she is not feeling well. It just wouldn't be genuine, which is what we all want, right? Sometimes (if you are sick) you're going to have to take some time to just be sick and get better. It's just that the way you wrote, it sounded like you might of known a thing or two about that. Maybe you are feeling irritable?
That suggestion to get lost is about the clearest indication yet of something I suspected, but found very hard to believe up until now.
I hope some of what I wrote might prompt some other visitors to consider some serious questions, otherwise I'm done. Thanks!
Best of luck with your blog.
But again, as you've correctly said, it is a public forum, and people come to such blogs looking for information that will help them and inspire them to move forward in their lives, so there is an element of public responsibility here as well.
'Breaking Bipolar' is a great title for a forum dealing with this topic. What I think of when I see this title, is a place for kindred spirits fighting to 'break' the hold that this illness has on our lives: that's why I landed here.
I'm not a troll, a hack looking for a fight, or someone with a personal vendetta against the pharmaceutical industry.
Everyone following this blog knows what it means to feel bad, depressed, hopeless: none of these feelings are new to any of us: we've had them for years, decades.
If identifying such thoughts is the first step in CBT, after endless 'expression' of such thoughts and endless sessions in the therapist's office, what comes next?
Is 'I am the only person here alone, I am always the only person alone'
accurate, or a distortion?
What if on this day, this might have been true, that it was 'reality': so what? Is there anything about where I am, who I am, on this particular day, that I can feel good about? Is there someway I can 'reframe' my time here, my day?
Those next processes: identifying thoughts, testing them, challenging them, and actively choosing to think better thoughts, is EXACTLY what CBT is about.
The example I gave of the POW's who endured a 'reality' far worse than a beautiful West coast beach, was meant as an example of the power of the human mind to 'reframe', overcome, and live, even under conditions that would initially be thought of as 'hopeless'.
I have no idea how this could be construed in a negative way, compared to the hopeless conclusions that if you are bipolar, you will always be depressed, alone and sick: those observations were unequivocally made.
I'm not 'anti-drug', and I am fully aware of the necessity of drug therapy in acute situations.
But there is a wealth of things that people with BP can integrate into their lives, in addition to a drug regimen if necessary, and therapy, which always will be: exercise, yoga, healthy diet, natural supplements, etc.
Someone wanting to be as healthy as they can be might challenge themselves into looking into these alternatives/adjuncts to mainline treatment.
In response to my question as to what the purpose of this blog is, I was told that "(I don't) deny the insane voice of bipolar in my head. I don't believe I should'nt be ashamed of it, or hide it in a corner."
I totally agree that this condition is nothing to be ashamed of.
I strongly disagree that one "should'nt deny the insane voice".
It is this voice, the one constantly telling us of how deficient and doomed we are, that should be vigorously fought, tooth-and-nail, every time it raises its head in our lives, because it is a complete distortion and a lie.
That 'voice' is the one that sucks the life-force out of us, renders us helpless and unable to help anyone else in this life.
If someone can tell me what 'good' this voice is, what 'good' can come from allowing it to 'speak', please tell me and the rest of the readers of this blog what it is.
One final thought re: the pharma industry, and who pays the bills.
It is ironic you used the example of diabetes, because every one of the newer generation 'atypical' antipsychotics, generating billions in revenue annually, have been found to put patients at great risk of developing just this disease.
The risks of these drugs causing serious metabolic disorder was strongly suspected during developing and marketing, but downplayed.
These are facts that can be corroborate with a little online research: it has nothing to do with any anti-Pharma 'conspiracy".
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on CBT. I am very familiar with the concepts and what I say is that they are tools to put in your toolbox, but not every tool is helpful for everyone. We all work them in our own way.
You are, of course, qualified to post your conclusions wherever you like, but people are then going to post their own conclusions, because they are also allowed to. You can't always expect to post something on a public forum and be completely unopposed. I thought that was one of the things that CBT teaches - to have realistic expectations. And just because someone says something in opposition to your ideas, it doesn't mean that they are saying "you're not allowed to post your ideas". In fact, you are the one who is implying that natasha should not post her ideas, by becoming hostile when she does.
In any case, if you haven't found what you're looking for, why not look somewhere else?
Anyway, now for some of my ideas, which I'm sure you will contest. I think you have missed the whole point of CBT. The first step is to identify your thoughts. Without this, reframing would not be possible. It is therefore necessary to write down thoughts, completely uncensored. This is fundamental. Only then can you find the flaws in your thinking and consider more realistic alternatives.
The problem with this, though, is that some thoughts are not unrealistic. They can still make you feel bad, but they are completely true. For example, it is true that bipolar is a chronic illness. It doesn't just go away. Coming to terms with this can be hard, but it is still true, it can't be reframed away.
Also, at times we are completely alone. Even if there are other people around, we are the ones who have to deal with the illness. And sometimes there really is no one around. No one experiences being completely alone without feeling bad about it, and expressing thoughts and feelings of loneliness can help. Reading about other people's experiences of loneliness can help too.
Now, in these situations it doesn't help to try to find an alternative thought. The only way to deal with the problem is through acceptance. Acceptance that this is the way things are right now, but also that they will not always be this way.
So you may think self-expression is unhelpful, but what is really unhelpful is an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory. The pharmaceutical industry makes money from people being sick, therefore they are convincing us we are sick when we really aren't? No, sorry, that is not a logical argument, it is simply an unsubstantiated claim. Do you also think that the pharmaceutical industry have wrongly convinced people that diabetes is a chronic illness that requires medication? What about cystic fibrosis? Could they get better without a lifetime of medication, if big pharma would only leave them alone? No, they would just die. Like many people with bipolar disorder, who are also at risk of dying if their illness goes untreated.
No therapist would give the advice that you are giving, at least not in the manner you give it. Compassion and understanding are fundamental to therapy, of which you have given none.
As for prisoners of war, do you really think that people go through that sort of thing unscathed? Maybe SOME do, but they are the minority. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that "There were POW’s in Vietnam who endured years of imprisonment, many in solitary confinement, who survived, and returned home whole men" is in the top ten list of things NOT to say to a depressed person.
Natasha, thanks for making this blog. Sharing experiences is important, and appreciated by most people with bipolar disorder. BJK is obviously dealing with the problem in a different way.
I did not intend to "set you straight". I'm simply commenting that everyone is different. What works for you doesn't necessarily work for me. I certainly would not prescribe suicide for someone, that is just ridiculous.
The idea of this blog is to show bipolar for what it really is for a lot of people - messy, painful, tear-stained, bloody, and torn.
We all want to be as happy and as healthy as we can be. But this doesn't mean I simply deny the insane voice of bipolar in my head. I don't believe that I should be ashamed of it or hide it in a corner. That is what this blog is about. It's about being imperfect, flawed, crazy, and human.
I thought that my hospitalizations, experiences with various drug regimens, and day to day struggles qualified me to post my conclusions here.
I first came to this site via HP, which is heavily linked to many other different sites, and subsidized by the Pharma industry advertisements.
I came looking for constructive, inspirational insights into how to move FORWARD in life with this condition.
I have no idea what the purpose of this blog is, but it doesn't appear to welcome ideas that conflict with the mindset espoused here.
People landing here would like to be as healthy as they can, would like to work to make their lives as happy as possible.
I posted to offer an alternative to the pronouncements that 'a life with bipolar is lonely', and 'once bipolar, always bipolar', which you make with a degree of certainty making it almost a death sentence.
Bipolar people live and work and have friends, many summoning the energy, daily, to fight tooth-and-nail to make progress in these areas of life.
There were POW's in Vietnam who endured years of imprisonment, many in solitary confinement, who survived, and returned home whole men.
By your definition of their 'reality', they should have taken their own lives.
They chose, instead, to LIVE, and they did this by 'reframing' who and what and where they were, and they survived.
There isn't a therapist alive, who is worth a damn, that would'nt offer the same advice to people struggling with a mindset that, after years of being trained in diminishment and neglect, refuses to see a better way.
But sometimes the bipolar simply takes over. My writing not only talks to the rational side of me, but it also talks to the bipolar side. And many of us with a nasty version of this disorder will tell you that all the techniques in the world don't help you at the worst of times.
Yes, I've seen these techniques work really well for many, and I highly recommend them, but it doesn't mean that they always work.
"Reframing" an issue, don't change reality. Period.
It is based on the fact that everything one experiences, feels, and acts on, follows from what we think: our thoughts.
There are a multitude of ways to think about, or reframe, one's circumstances.
Reframing one's thoughts can have a profound improvement on the way we look at life, the way we feel on any given day.
A good place to start is to challenge the distortortion that we are someone cursed, fated to receive more of the bad things in life than the good, that somehow we are always dealt a bad hand in the game of life.
If our perception is that we seem to be on the receiving end of more bad things, it is much more likely because this is how are thinking was 'trained' in youth.
The great reality of life is that our past, and the patterns of thinking we lived with, does not have to dictate the future.
This isn't a harsh assessment, it's the naked truth for many of us. I am all for positive thinking and reflecting on the why's and how's, but sometimes you just need to tell it how it is. Censoring your state of mind never helps.
Thank you Natasha, for giving my feelings a voice that I'm incapable of at the moment.
Being lonely amid your close family (siblings and in-laws) is specially painful, since you realiza you won't ever share a life wiith no one. I've known for long that I'm staying in this marriage just for the sake of my kids.
Now they are turning into young adults. Now my life seems as senseless as it gets.
Have you been driving at 70 mph and closed your eyes, hoping it ends then and there? Well, I have.
I've been on therapy for 4 years now. It indeed has been better; far better. But it is still lonely. Very lonely. And I'm tired.
In my case,however, Lithium carbonate ,as prescribed, has done a lot of
good. It is mood stabilizer...some side effects to start with ,but they all
fade away gradually.
What I am trying to say is proper,prescribed medicine can help a great
deal.Therefore should be taken seriously .
My Bipolar is due to chemical imbalance in the brain and inhherited from
Dad's side. Thats what my doc tells me.
This is a very harsh assessment, and one that doesn't get anyone anywhere. It's not an accident that so many people who grew up in homes that were 'invalidating' or otherwise psychologically or physically abusive have such difficulty later in life with depression or BP disorder. Our brains became badly wired by the experiences: I'm convinced of this.
Many of us went through life simply not knowing how to 'be', because we never learned to 'be'. We experienced one difficulty after the other, some more severe than others, that left us doubting our ability, or worthiness, to relate to others. The medical industry, the therapeutic industry, has a stake in ensuring that we continue to call ourselves sick: patients, even victims, that without lifelong, changing, drug intervention, and decades of therapy, we will never be 'well' or 'better'. At some point, every person must make a solid, conscious decision, a commitment, to the betterment of one's own life, and devote all one's waking hours to seeing this through.
There are many, many people who find themselves alone, for any number of reasons, that were not within their control: death or serious illness or some bad circumstance. Every person, no matter what his condition or personal circumstances, has gifts to offer to others, to the world. It is a requirement, in return for the life we have been given, to find out what these are, and to share them.
A loving, empathetic, patient therapist, and only a therapist with these qualities, will definitely help the journey. No pills, no drugs, will ever be able to do this.
Well yes, I am going through a down period, it's true. But frankly, that expresses most of my life, so it's not terribly unusual.
There are a few things I have found made me worse, but mostly I could pick them out fairly easily. Make me psychotic, manic, more depressed, whatnot.
Right now I'm having a lot of medical issues in terms of doctors and medications, but I won't get into it here.
And hey, I like therapists just fine. I just don't see their value at this point. I've had over a decade of therapy. And I almost never drink.
Thanks for comment and suggestions.
you poor thing, sounds like you're going through a depressed phase at the moment. Don't lose hope. I sometimes wonder If some of the medicine actually makes things worse. I did a timeline of all the meds I have ever been on, and life events and moods etc and found one in particular was harmful, so if you are feeling particularly blue or apathetic or hopeless it might be a good idea. Sometimes it's not always the illness. Alot of the meds we are prescribed can actually cause the symptoms they are supposed to treat. For me the major things that have helped me hope are regular psychotherpay ( I see my psychiatrist for 30 mins every week and I crap on the entiretime about whatever is on my mind and he might challenge me on things u say etc) and also, I stopped all alcohol a year a go.
Good luck honey. Xxx