Living with Bipolar: From the Outside
While you may find that bipolar disorder can turn your world upside down, you may not know how it impacts those who live with people that have it. One minute, everything is great. Then, your partner/loved one experiences a manic state and everything changes. It isn't just those close you that suffer from the rapid cycling, mixed cycles, and other manic/outburst states of bipolar. Strangers who witness it, or in many cases, are the target of aggression often feel fear or anger themselves.
I had the pleasure of interviewing someone close to me, someone who had seen me as a happy child turned into a little demon. My mother has become my best friend through my travel down the road of life. She was there when I changed, and she is there now after my transformation (Post-Meds). I asked her what she experienced when my bipolar began to make itself apparent. She shocked me with her answer, and I believe it shed some light on how people perceive me and possibly others with this disorder.
She stated that when I was a boy, I was happy and always playing and full of life. Then almost over night, I changed into an uncontrollable monster that had violent outbursts that no one could control. She was scared. Not of me, but of what may happen to me if I didn't straighten out. I say straighten out because my mom, like many others who have children or family with bipolar, she didn't think there was a reason. She thought that I was just acting out and having temper tantrums. It wasn't till I was older that she realized that there was a serious issue.
I think that is what people with bipolar are effected by most, knowing we impact those in our life and we can't help them understand. What we want to say is, 'It can't be 'Fixed', so don't try to fix me.” However, we also need to realize that it isn't always our illness. Sometimes we are just wrong. But I digress.
What They See
When I was older, my mom only wished for me to find the strength to get help. She was at a loss and didn't know how to manage me. I was, at one point, out of control and heading for self destruction of one form or the next. My family seen me higher than a kite, coping with my anger in unhealthy ways. They've seen me mad, sad, confused, dumbfounded, and crazy.
Because they have seen so many faces of me, they have come to terms that I am not just acting out. They see me for who I am, and a couple of my family members actually respect me more for pulling out of it the way I have. They can't see me as a burden, problem or a demon. They have to see me as someone with a mental illness who is trying their best. I think that is something we should all take away from this. We are trying our best.
However, it isn't just about how my mom seen me behave and was impacted, it works the other way around. I have been involved with people, lived with people, and been steadily around people who live with mental illness. Being the type of person I am, many of them have felt comfortable opening up to me. I have seen many different faces, especially those that are associated with bipolar, and I can honestly say I know how it feels from the outside. Living with bipolar is difficult sometimes, living with someone who has bipolar can be just as bad. I remember feeling overly stressed, helpless, unable to adjust.
It is easy to just accuse someone of being childish, immature, inappropriate, or angry. It is important, however, to recognize that a lot of times it can't be helped. There isn't a switch we can flip to turn off our emotions, no matter how hard we try. If we could, I think most of us would. When you can't see the battles raging in someone's head, and all you see is the battle that you must fight to get through to them, it can be devastating. There has to be a level of acceptance and understanding. When you are on the outside, you need to be able to look in past the anger, the manic highs, the depression, and find the person within. You may not be able to pull them out of the fire of their moods, but you can still reach them and help them know they are not alone.