Posted March 5, 2013
“People ask me if I feel 100 percent again and I would have no answer because there is nothing to gauge that against. I was starting from an unknown place, Point A.”
This was the first line in my first posting, Steve on Rebuilding a Life: Part 1. It was originally titled Point A so the next logical step would be getting to Point B. This could not be further from the truth. There is no Point B, only an infinite number of paths that you can venture down if you have the mental bearings to do so; otherwise, you just exist.
A main feeling that is damaged when you are finally finished destroying life as you know it is confidence. Confidence in anything and everything as your world has been forever changed. You no longer have confidence in your professional life nor have stability in your personal life. Everyone either thinks you are crazy or is mad at you for ending up in your present situation. This is where you start and you are not in a mental state at this point in time to get out of it. I was in survival mode and this means that I had to use all my mental facilities to stop myself from impulsively jumping in front of a subway train or off a building. People don’t get how fragile you are, and giving up at this point is a very real option, so their words can really be strongly construed and damaging. It takes them longer than you think to adjust to your new normal, and looking back this is a very dangerous point in a bipolar person’s struggle.
This fear of harming myself stayed with me until 2010 when I finally locked all the pain and suffering in a mental “black box,” a place where I don’t venture in my mind. I’ll open it one day when I’m stronger, but for now I can’t put these issues on my plate. It could shake and damage my confidence, which would be a huge setback. Confidence is important because I use it to gauge my progress. I can look back now and decipher points of change such as the new formation of a beliefs and value system. This has all changed and keeps changing which makes it difficult to form opinions about things, if that makes sense. Opinions I have found are a byproduct of my ever increasing confidence and as I form more opinions based on my new and changing belief and values system, my life is gelling up and forming a new me. This is how I am rebuilding my life and it is this rock solid foundation of beliefs and values that is causing me to excel and begin to formulate a strategy to get a personal life back and a professional life started. No one teaches you this, so I give myself credit, which builds confidence on figuring it out and hope this can help some other people.
To change my beliefs and value system I had to take everything into account such as emotional happiness, materialistic wants, connections with family and friends, self-purpose, religion, and political views to name a few. I had to learn to understand the complexity and scope of the world. What I mean by this is expanding my local existence. Most of us live in a very small world with some family and friends; for example, a supermarket, a home, some neighbors, and a workplace with colleagues and perhaps friends. If you all the sudden took a class on art you would be pulling back the tarp that is left on the rest of the world because you live in your relatively small world. By opening the world up and learning new things, I have found that life is very different from what I thought it was. I have gained great empathy for everyone as most everyone has their own set of demons and daily problems. I have had the chance to rebuild a new life which is free of emotional hindrances and I try to clear “my coffee table,” so to speak, of life’s daily problems and issues as soon as possible. Most of the world does not or cannot do this which causes them to live in a perpetually unhappy place I believe.
So besides confidence, a new set of beliefs and values as well as the ability to form real and strong opinions leads me to the question of what I want out of life. I used to want $10 million dollars. Now I want happiness as well as the ability to help others find happiness, so how do I do this? The experts say materialistic things only bring momentary happiness but shared experiences can bring continual happiness as you can go to a concert with friends and relive this hopefully good experience for the rest of your life. Ten years down the road, the experience of the concert would be still there as would the emotions, whereas the materialistic item is a one trick pony. I have not thought of a large way to spread happiness for now except for writing these stories and demonstrating to others no matter how bad it can get there is always hope.
Suicide, no matter how tempting it is, will not make anyone happy. Friends and family and others you’ve touched in your life will remember the experiences of hanging out with you and going to your funeral for the rest of their lives. I do realize that you can’t figure this out and you really don’t care about it when you are in a suicidal state, but I remember that it was little snippets of people’s reactions and comments to how I was acting that eventually made me realize that there could be something wrong with me. So I mention these points of view as they may jar you now or at some point in the future when things are looking bleak and hopeless.
It doesn’t really make a difference to me, but I don’t think I am an alcoholic. I have had a drink on medications, and drinking does give me the same feeling. I used to do it unknowingly to take me down from my manic state and this would actually slow my thoughts enabling me to feel “normal.” The medications do the slowing now, so when I drank on them, which was an extremely rare event (like twice a year), there was no “good” feeling. It just made me dopey, which I don’t like. I did not want ten drinks or have the need or craving to drink more. This is relieving to me, as it’s one less problem on “my coffee table.” What I have to say about drinking is that it’s a drag to quit it, but you have to do it in order to calibrate the rest of your life in your new state of being. I don’t use the sober because you are still taking medications that severely alter your clarity and judgment so you are not sober, you are medicated.
I have been episode free and on my bipolar medication for four years now, and I am grateful for the stability I have in my life. Many people don’t think about it much as it probably won’t happen to them but if you really don’t have your mental game together, you and the people who care about you are upside down in very deep water. This is where I was, and now I am here. Not at Point B as I said because there is no Point B I have learned. It’s just a whole new way of existing which is tremendously challenging to this day.
I know why bipolar people don’t take their medications. It’s because they change who you are and always have been. I thought it would get easier to be on my meds but remaining in an emotional lock box just feels more and more unnatural every day, and your body and mind know something is up. I have not cried or been depressed over the last 4 years nor have I felt excited about anything. I’m stuck in a perpetual state of neutral, unable to feel the regular emotional up and downs that most people experience during their daily lives. This perpetual state of neutral has replaced my former self, which is sad. I no longer feel energized having a certain zest for living out every day to its fullest which is really me. I use to have a constant stream of new creative ideas running through my mind every day, and that was refreshing. This is all gone now because I take medications that have a side effect of neutralizing my emotions and therefore make me feel like a different person.
Dealing with this loss of me is very maddening and hurtful, as I have been stripped of a portion of who I really am. I am forced to do this in order to stay healthy and out of the hospital, and that’s the way it is. Some people have said that “I’m sorry that you got dealt a bad hand in life,” and this is actually nice to hear. For a person who is dyslexic and bipolar and has watched his mother mentally disintegrate due to early onset Alzheimer’s in his teens, I think I have had a fairly full plate in life. Life is hard enough without these tragedies and defects, and the people who said it is all part of the big picture are quite frankly unhinged. There’s an opinion so I’m making progress!