I have a close friend who lives with bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depressive illness. The disease has derailed him several times. After each episode, he brings himself down a notch. Listening to him talk about how he wants to be a better person breaks my heart. He is already an amazing athlete, listener, extremely smart, and thoughtful to those around him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see that all the time.
Through his journey with bipolar disorder, I was able to learn and understand the difficulties he goes through on a daily basis. With this illness, you can do some really gnarly things when you are manic. “John’s” specialty is saying exactly what’s on his mind when he loses his temper. In a manic outburst, he can deliver a message with stunning clarity and laser precision. His words are a shot to the center of the heart. When we discussed this topic, he explained to me that the hardest part of living with bipolar is losing friends. Many times when people see him in a manic stage, they think he is overreacting or attention seeking. Both of those examples are false and he tries not to hurt anyone when in a manic stage. From what I have heard, “John” has been working very hard and has not had a bad manic moment in a long time.
“When you swing low, to the bottom of an episode of depression, you can’t see or feel past the moment,” explains john. Your mind won’t let you embrace good thoughts. That has its consequences too. The feeling of hopelessness is everywhere, and you are tired all the time. Processing a rational thought is like walking through hot tar. When I listen to my friend, I can’t believe that someone as capable as him is so negative towards himself, but I get it. People with bipolar disorder have to pick themselves up again and again. Sometimes you need to start from scratch, while other time you can pick up and go. You have to be willing and invested in mining your goodness and finding faith over and over again. It is no surprise to me that this disease has the highest rate of suicide among people with mental illnesses. “When I tell people I have bipolar disorder, I act all nonchalant about it. Some people are shocked, not because I am mentally ill, but because I don’t “show signs.” That’s because I take my medication like I brush my teeth, every day and with devotion. That’s because I can afford to see a psychiatrist.”
John has dusted himself off many times; he knows failure better than most people. No matter how many times he disintegrates, swing too high or too low, his soul waits for him. It is whole and healthy, and it is a tremendous friend. This illness will never diminish it or steal his essence. John has taught me so much during this process and I am glad he opened up to me about his life with bipolar disorder.