Way back in May of this year, before my untimely relapse, I began working through a blog challenge devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass. His Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge is one of the only ones I know that focuses on mental health and each prompt is thought-provoking, challenging and fun.
Thus, now that I am blogging again, I’d like to pick up where I left off with the fifth day of the challenge: Write a letter to your younger self telling them the things you think they will need to know about when they are diagnosed with your condition.
~ A(nother) letter to my younger self ~
Note: whenever I write unsent letters on my blog I do so as a stream of consciousness because, c’mon, who edits letters that they send to people!? Thus, this post was written between 16:28 and 16:52 on the 22 August 2013. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors contained within, for they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.
22 August 2013
If the delivery-company I’ve decided to employ does their job correctly, you’ve just had this letter hand delivered to you by a rain-soaked courier. I’m sure you get the reference. What you probably didn’t understand was why the courier was rain-soaked considering it’s a rather fine and balmy evening where you are…well, in a valiant effort to kick-start this letter with a smile I instructed the company to pour a bucket of cold water over the individual moments prior to approaching you. The way I see it, if you’re gonna go with a pop-culture reference, you may as well do it properly.
Anyway, now we’ve got that wee explanation out the way, let’s get down to business shall we. In order to prove my credentials (that I am in fact you from the future…again!) I shall now tell you exactly what you’re doing: you are currently sitting on the East Beach in Port Fairy, a small knife in your trembling right hand, a mobile phone in your left. You’ve just read a text message about insects and are beginning to question your decision to end your life tonight. Am I right?
Of course I am.
I’m you, remember.
Now, put that fucking knife down you imbecilic moron and pay attention to me for a moment. What you do afterwards has no bearing on me whatsoever, just so long as you listen to what I have to say.
A little over eighteen months from now you are going to be diagnosed with an illness called Bipolar Affective Disorder. This diagnosis is going to turn your life upside down and I’m here to prepare you so the transition is as painless as humanly possible.
Now, I know you’re familiar with the term bipolar, but I’m going to start with the basics…okay? Good. From here-on-in I shall be referring to bipolar as manic depression. Why? Well, contrary to the PC do-gooders, you will come to realize that you much prefer the phrase Manic Depression to describe what you suffer from. Unlike Bipolar, it is far more descriptive of the illness and will one-day resonate with you far more than Bipolar ever will.
The reason for this is that many people (namely arsehole psychiatrists) will stick permanent labels on you with their trusty DSM approved label makers, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. It will take you many – many – years after that first psychiatrist to realize that you and only you can decide what label (if any) applies to you…so you may as well learn that lesson now.
Now, Bipolar Affective Disorder is a mental illness in the ‘mood disorder’ classification of illnesses; which means that your moods are – for want of a better term – fucked. This deep suicidal depression you’ve just slipped into courtesy of Louise’s betrayal, your ludicrous workaholic mentality and years of untreated mental health problems is part of the bipolar cycle. Soon enough (I won’t tell you when as it will take all the fun out of it) you’re gonna experience something called mania. You’ve been there before, without realizing it, but when you experience it next it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. To whet your appetite, imagine yourself as an immortal God where nothing you do, say, think or feel is wrong; where you are the most perfect individual to have ever existed and everyone (regardless of how cute and untouchable their posterior) thinks you are the bees-knees.
(Note to self – when you come to write this letter, please find a better phrase than ‘the bees-knees’!)
Of course, this is all bollocks. You are not an immortal God and regardless of how you perceive yourself during these periods, you are actually acting like a major twat. You just don’t realize it. Of course, nothing I do or so will stop you during these periods so…what the hey…go with it! Just enjoy it, because soon enough these depressive thoughts will creep back in and life will turn to hell in a hand basket once more.
That’s the nature of Manic Depression. This endless cycle between mania, depression and (what everyone forgets about) all the shit in between!
I won’t bore you with all the details, but there are gonna be days where you go from walking on rainbows one minute to frying in the depths of hell the next. There are going to be weeks where you believe that you can save the universe by hanging yourself. There will be days that erase themselves from your memory and months that you will never again be able to remember.
It’s a bastard, Manic Depression, and you’re gonna hate the crap out of it for destroying your life.
But what I need you to understand – what I need you to remember – is that it isn’t all shit.
Sure; there’s gonna be a crap-load of medication that will leave you zombified, more self-harm than you can possibly imagine, people (friends!) fleeing your life faster than you think possible and an entire society turning against you because you dared suffer from an illness that you have no control over.
But…your creativity will (as it always has) blossom. You will take some of the most beautiful photographs in the world, paint some of the most random (and obscure) images ever known to humankind and write like some possessed demon on steroids, churning out page after page of the most detailed, random, gut-wrenchingly honest collection of letters known to blogging kind.
Because of your illness you will meet some of the most beautiful souls that you will ever know. People who will put a smile on your face with one word in an email, people who (for the first time in your life) understand you completely and – even if you find this hard to believe right now – never judge you, not even for that!
You will blossom, Andrew, because of your diagnosis – but only if you let it.
So let it.
Once you get through all the confusion, pain, agony, torment, loneliness and social hate.
Once you get through all the labels, meds, misdiagnoses, re-diagnoses and psychiatric bullshit.
Once you stop getting hung up on a word and start getting hung up on yourself, you’ll not give two shits about being diagnosed bipolar because – even when the entire world disagrees, which it will at times – it’s just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you.
And everyone who doesn’t see that isn’t worth knowing.
So, stand the fuck up, throw the knife in the trash and phone Ms. I’m-sending-you-a-text-message-about-ants because she can help you a helluva lot more than I can right now.
Just remember one thing: one day you are going to be fine, Andrew, one day you will be happy again.
I’m just not going to tell you when, because…spoilers!
Love and hugs always,
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:
Also, you can find previous letters I have written to myself here: