I ran into an acquaintance at a festival at the weekend and politely asked after his partner who wasn’t with him. In his explanation, he mentioned they had been arguing lately and he suspected his partner had bipolar. I asked why he thought that.
What followed was not what I would describe as bipolar but still suggested he encourage his partner to see a doctor if it was a problem.
When he pressed me to explain what bipolar was, I said it usually manifested as periods of depression and mania, depending on the type. When he asked me what depression looked like, part of me was aghast. Despite all the education and so-called awareness these days about mental health, this intelligent guy had leapt to the conclusion his partner had bipolar without even understanding the symptoms of depression.
Later that day, when I found myself crying standing at the back of the crowd watching the headline act perform, I text my bestie “Depression = when you can be at an event with thoudands of people and still feel completely alone”.
For a couple of months now, I’ve chosen to go off my medication. I am exploring other ways to balance my mood, such as exercise, not drinking, going to bed earlier and some herbal supplements. On the whole, I do feel better, but I am finding the darkness creeping up in more subtle ways.
I am not usually prone to anxiety but it now accompanies me everywhere, particularly in regards to work. When I receive an email notification on my phone, I experience a physical response that fills me with dread, no matter how innocuous the subject matter. I cry at small things – listening to a podcast, a character on a TV show, driving to a work lunch. I’m irritable, quick to anger and find it difficult to express how I feel.
Or, it’s just total apathy. I literally don’t care about anything. I can’t get motivated to do the smallest tasks and, where boredom is usually my enemy, I relish being able to stare into nothingness without thought.
It’s exhausting to think about actively managing my mood.
And, I acknowledge, this is my choice. I could go back on my meds and balance out but in other ways it’s less helpful. I know I can drink more on medication, way more, and I suspect I would.
Now, I can drink very little without feeling the depressive effects and I choose instead not to drink.
It made me remember something an ex said to me about 15 years ago. He used to call my spirit of choice (Southern Comfort, yeah yeah, don’t judge me) my “sad drink”. He told me when I drank it, I got sad. I always assumed he meant I drank it when I was sad, but now I see he was right. I wasn’t medicated then, and I would become sad when I drank it.
Since being medicated, I have drunk more Southern than anything else, a bottle in a night more than once, and never associated it as my “sad drink”. Now, med-free, I can feel the sadness come on after one drink. Like the warm spread of alcohol through your system, I also feel the icy tentacles tearing me down and I find myself stopping at one.
My pysch and I have spoken quite a bit over the past few months about this relationship with alcohol and it’s been an interesting one. I don’t think I want to give it up in its entirety but at some point I am going to need to make a choice between medication and sobriety.
Realistically, bipolar isn’t ever going to be manageable for me without medication but fuck it feels good to try. And feeling anything these days feels like a win.
early 17th century: from French apathie, via Latin from Greek apatheia, from apathēs ‘without feeling’, from a- ‘without’ + pathos ‘suffering’.
- lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.