Being Bipolar is like having two speeds. Low and High, and nothing in between.
Low speed is not enough to accomplish what I’ve committed to. It doesn’t supply enough energy for the physical and emotional needs of a husband, three children, and pets. It doesn’t quite cover the laundry, dishes, and baking, cooking, volunteer commitments. Low speed means I can forget about a social life, even talking on the phone is cumbersome. Forget about exercising, having sex or any activity that requires much of anything. It means grocery shopping seems over whelming, and planning meals in my head hurts.
Low speed means constantly disappointing those in your life because you can’t quite keep up with their expectations, and you already have to deal with your own self-disappointment. It means less hope and seeing all of my flaws in 3D. Low speed is critical and self-defeating. It means doubting the quality of what I’ve previously done and grieving what I need to get to but can’t.
Low speeds means I’ve made social commitments I can’t fathom following through on, and promises I made to the kids to take them to do things. I feel despair at this speed for my children, that I’m not enough, that I have nothing to draw from and give them and I don’t know how to explain it in a way they can understand. I want to explain it though, because I don’t want them to internalize it, my illness is not about them, it is not their fault. Low speed means I think about whether I should leave my children to my family to take care of, so they have a chance at a happy childhood. At low speed I feel angry at my husband for not contributing more around the house and with the kids, for not being able to make up for my deficit. I need help, but I’m too exhausted and embarrassed to have to ask.
AND THEN SOMETHING STARTS FIRING IN MY BRAIN, TELLING IT TO GO … AND I’M ONTO HIGH SPEED JUST LIKE THAT.
High speed. With racing thoughts, and jarring movements. This speed means that everyone around is annoyingly and irritatingly slow. It means less sleep and much more worrying and analyzing. It means being defensive and overreacting. It means certain volumes of noise are unbearable, especially repetitive noises. It means no details can be processed or focused at great length. It means intense workouts, it means that time goes by quickly. It means socializing and talking nonstop. It means driving quickly and not as carefully.
High speed means euphoria, big ideas and plans, intermingling in my mind all at the same time. It means I finally think things are coming together, that finally there will be some sense completion. I don’t want this feeling to end, that I don’t want to go back to low speed, I’ve spent too much time there already, in high speed I feel like I’m accomplishing the list in my head. I view myself as finally coming to be, because there’s a chance I’ll actually achieve some of my goals since I finally have the emotional and physical energy to do so.
This speed can be volatile and hard on my family. I bark orders, want things done correctly and quickly. I have patience for no one. I don’t want to sit and snuggle with my children, or read them a book, I have things to do. It means impulsively making decisions and then regretting them. It means being to open, revealing myself intimately and then later wishing I hadn’t. It means drinking and fantasizing about hugely optimistic goals for myself. This speed takes me from my children as well but in a more selfish, all-consuming way, and sadly with less regret on my part.
Just having been diagnosed correctly, FINALLY. I’m hoping that there will be a middle speed possible with mood stabilizers. I’m not anticipating perfection because from my twenty-plus years struggling with mental illness, I know its trial and error, while Science tries to catch up with the creator.