Brutal Senses: How Being Bipolar Feels
Ever since I was rather young, I wondered why everything felt so… big. All my senses were in overdrive, and it was very obvious to me that everyone felt I was some sort of whinging drama queen. I was, ‘obviously’, just being overly dramatic about everything, making everything bigger than it was, so why didn’t I just go away and pretend to be fine with my agony being laughed at (yanno, instead of being recognized as being so severe as to cause the rest of the mind and body to shut up shop to survive)?
One of the biggest reliefs for me in getting my bipolar diagnosis was finding out that I wasn’t alone in feeling everything so strongly. I am not a drama queen. I am not an attention seeker. I loathe histrionics. I had to bottle how I felt about everything, how everything felt, so that I’d not be mistaken for some ‘I broke a nail, the world is over!’ attention-seeking sort. I didn’t want folks to mistake me for that, even though every noise and smell and feel and sound was like a hammer fall against my psyche.
It still makes me feel like people probably think me a drama queen though for simply trying to take care of myself. For example, when people are very happy and excited about things — I think many of us with bipolar can agree that it’s nearly as bad as someone screaming at the top of their lungs at us. It’s still a lot of emotion and output that we sponge up and cannot dispel so readily. And, I’m sure that many will agree with me, it is a big reason to engage in avoidant behavior no matter how well we might otherwise be doing. While I might have been able to take it on the chin when I was younger (and self-medicating in the worst possible ways), it’s not something I can handle so well now. Even small encounters can set me in a bad, physically shaking way for an entire day. Not that I normally admit to this, ’cause some people are bastids who looove taking advantage of that sort of fragility for their own sick edification.
Nor is it to say that me or anyone I know dealing with a mental illness wants people to stay far away. If anything, I know that me needing to take care of myself means that well-meaning friends retreat to a far distance and never attempt to cross the gap again. I can’t, which is something I make clear; with my limited spoons, I’ll save them for people who come to me. I emphatically relish in sharing in the good and bad and helping those who I care about… as long as they don’t hit me with a wall of pure feeling without warning. But it’s that old saw — as hard as it is for us to get by with our bipolar, we also have to deal with the fact that those who are around us can’t fully savvy how we’ll be day to day, and that it’s easier to stay retreated. I can’t blame ’em per se, but I know those who I converse with daily understand that even with my flaws and blow-ups, I’m as loyal and loving a friend as anyone could ever want… as long as they’re willing to hold up their end.
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