"Manic-depression is a frustrated mess."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from bipolar disorder. Being that I am a member of the 2.6 percent club, I can tell you firsthand that the gulf of understanding between those who have bipolar versus those who don't is vast.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that only 25 percent of people with mental health issues feel that people are caring and sympathetic toward their struggles. And, honestly, I get it. If you're not bipolar and you're not educated about it, it's hard to relate to those who do. But for those of us who do suffer from it, the lack of understanding and empathy compounds the hell that we're already in.
Invisible to the outside world, bipolar is genetic in nature and filled with stigmas. These stigmas, however, fall short in light of the statistics. The suicide rate among those with bipolar is 30 times higher that the general population. Our lifespan is roughly ten years less than everyone else. I could go on and on. The point is - having a bad day from time to time is not bipolar. Why, then, is bipolar so intense?
For me, the manic side allows me to fit into society by be outgoing, personable, etc.(even though I haven't had an intense manic episode in quite some time). Mania is the highest of highs that is better than any drug out there and you're constantly trying to chase it. You build relationships that you won't be able to maintain because the darkest wave of depression will come along eventually to the point that you have to avoid people and certain circumstances. You're no longer the person that everyone wants you to be. You have to hide which forces you to destroy relationships just so you can breathe. It's exhausting to be one person for a certain amount of time and a completely different person the rest of the time.
The overwhelming number of people I know who are bipolar also have or have had a substance abuse problem including myself. It's rarely an attempt to get high. It's a need to find balance. Downers when we're too wound up and uppers when we're too down to even get out of bed. We will damage our bodies just to get through the day. The future is meaningless. We desperately need to cure the moment we're in.
Thoughts of suicide eventually lead to attempts. I've had three myself. I've grown tired of having to put on my "happy mask" because you are not allowed to be anything but grateful for the life you have in this wonderful world. All of this despite the fact that I am truly grateful for not having "third world problems." It is a disease that allows you to see through all the bullshit which is both a blessing and a curse. Whatever the outcome, I keep marching on even though the stigma says I am simply giving up.
Some of us take lithium and antidepressants, and most everyone believes these pills are fundamentally wrong, a crutch, a sign of moral weakness, the surrender of art and individuality. Bullshit. Such thinking guarantees tragedy for the bipolar. Without medicine, 20 percent of us, one in five, will commit suicide. Six-gun Russian roulette gives better odds. Denouncing these medicines makes as much sense as denouncing the immorality of motor oil. Without them, sooner or later, the bipolar brain will go bang. I know plenty of potheads who sermonize against the pharmaceutical companies; I know plenty of born-again yoga instructors, plenty of missionaries who tell me I'm wrong about lithium. They don't have a clue.-David Lovelace, Scatter Shot:My Bipolar Family