I am a manic-depressive (more recently called bi-polar) and suffer from moods swings that range from the heights of mania and the troughs of depression. In a manic state, I conquer the world; plan out my life for the next five years, and survive on a minimal amount of sleep. During depression I could become almost vegetative – not wanting to leave the house. My refuge was found in school, work, and church.
In retrospect, I believe the first symptoms occurred around age 11. I remember laying in my bed on a perfectly good afternoon and crying myself to sleep but do not remember any manic episodes. I felt different from the other kids like I was orbiting around a center where real life existed. It wasn’t until I was 21 that a name was given to my condition. I felt that I was a failure and a freak. Mainstream society did not accept mental illness as a true physical condition. Even though my doctor tried to convince me that I was wrong, my social conditioning was hard to overcome.
I hid the fact from those around me fearing even more rejection. I had no close friends. I could not trust my emotions to tell me the truth. I felt unreal and still feel that way now. During my senior year of high school, I did not even realize that I was in the top ten percent of my class. I graduated valedictorian.
Then after several years of marriage and treatment I felt that I could handle having children. I have two sons. The oldest also has been diagnosed with the bi-polar condition. It is very hard to help him when I can barely help myself. Again, I feel like a failure. The only advice I can give is to tell him that when his emotions do not match the situation, acknowledge the fact and move on. Tomorrow is a different day and his outlook might be different.
After becoming an expert in the symptoms of bi-polar, I believe that my father had the condition and some of his younger relatives were diagnosed with it. In one of my literature classes, I wrote a critical paper proving that the main character in “The Awaking” by Kate Chopin was bipolar. At least I convinced the professor.
I wonder how many better and different mountains that I could have explored if the situation would have been different or have I used the condition as a crutch to hide behind.
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