Feb 16, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
This morning, my mom sent me a picture of her latest home renovation project – patching the massive hole in the hallway outside my room. “On to bigger and better things for you,” she typed, subtly reminding me of the night I manically threw a phone through the wall. Teenagers, am I right?
I recently had to explain to someone what it was like to be manic. “It’s like being the most magnetic person at a party – everyone is drawn to you, everything you touch is gold, and it’s great until the magnets start collapsing your body in on itself. It’s not being manic that I dread – it’s the crash.”
I’m inclined to have a soft spot for my manic episodes.
I’m inclined to have a soft spot for my manic episodes – I feel like it’s the best (if most unsustainable) version of myself. But I often forget the other part of it, the frustration that comes from having so many ideas and not enough focus to bring any of them to proper fruition, and the rage that peeks out when people point out this discrepancy. Mania is generally only great to the person experiencing it.
The night I threw the phone through the wall wasn’t a good one. My parents were at a dinner party, and since I had been exhibiting general signs of instability, they had taken all sets of car keys with them. I proved their instincts right by leaving them about six incoherent voicemails each, before the obvious conclusion to this story occurred.
There’s something we, as people with mental illness, often say when moments like these happen. I’m not myself. And I wasn’t – in general, I’m a cheery, wise-cracking squirrel of a human and don’t have a violent bone in my body. But at the same time, bipolar disorder is such a huge part of who I am that I have no choice but to own my bad moments as well. I may not be the best version of myself, but I’m still me. I’m still accountable for the holes that I make.
Sometimes when I’m depressed, and having trouble writing, I wish I was manic. I want – as my psychiatrist puts it – “my brain to be on fire.” My mom left that hole in the wall to remind me that being manic isn’t fun – it’s self-destructive. It took me years to understand why she didn’t just patch it up right away, but it also took me years to stop blaming my mental illness and start making responsible choices to control it. They say that the first step is acceptance, but they don’t tell you that it can take six long years to get even halfway there.
Living with mental illness is just that – living.
That’s why places like SickNotWeak are important to me. If I think of mental illness as something that creates community instead of something that can tear me apart, I’m that much more motivated to make the right decisions to get healthy again. If I surround myself with people fighting the same fight, I am that much stronger. If you need motivation, don’t worry about the bad things that could happen if you don’t get up and try – think about the positive things that will come your way if you do. Because they will come your way, even if they take time. Living with mental illness is just that – living. You have to turn the page to find out what happens next.