Living with Bi-Polar Light

I am a student. I do a part time MA at UCL. I work in a pub. I volunteer. And I am bipolar.

That is, I have cyclothymia. A form of bipolarity that I have only ever heard been described by Stephen Fry as “Bipolar light”. Essentially this means I get certain lows, or depressions, every-so-often and then highs, or manias, every-so-often. For me, in particular, I find that both my depressions and my manias come in between my mid-points. When I experience lows I really experience them. I hate everything. I hate what I’m doing, I hate where I’ve been and I hate where I’m going.

But most especially I hate who I am. I hate me. I feel that I’m shit. I’m crap and pointless and a failure. I am not worth the skin and bones that I am wrapped in. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not fit enough. I’m not wealthy enough. Most of all I feel that I am not intelligent enough. I want to lie in bed, cover myself in my duvet. I want to drink until I’m happy, until I can’t feel the things I’m feeling. I want to smoke a cigarette. I want to smoke because it makes me feel good, because it reminds me of a time when I’ve convinced myself I’m happy. I even remember thinking I want to smoke because I want it take me away. It sucks. It’s shit and painful and horrible and I’m completely and utterly destitute by it.

 I hate who I am. I hate me. I feel that I’m shit. I’m crap and pointless and a failure.

But I never want it to go away. And as far as I understand many that experience bipolarity experience the same contradiction. And that is for one, specific reason. I love my mania. Bipolarity. Bi. Two states of mind. The low, the crap. And the high. The manic side of it. Mania is incredible. It’s better than any drug you could take. It’s energy in its purist form. It’s happy. It’s so incredibly happy that you could find yourself doing almost anything and believe that what you’re doing is a shared experience with the people around you. It’s the belief that you could say “let’s go to India” and truly believe that you are a genius and no-one before you has had the insight that you have had, ever.

I’m horribly aware that many people experience many harsher forms of bipolarity than me. I am incredibly lucky in that I experience the lighter form of bipolarity. That I am functioning. That my depression hasn’t resulted in me being sectioned. That I haven’t had to take drugs or have electric shock to “fix” who I am. I have been gifted with the mania to not be able to stay still. To say yes to every opportunity that is given to me. I hate it when I’m low because I know that I’m low. I hate that I look out at the world and know that I’m not experiencing things in the same way as, at least what I think as, “everyone else” does.

But I wouldn’t give it up. Honestly I’m terrified that I won’t achieve things if I’m “level”. I won’t be able to find the energy to live in the same way as when I’m manic. I’m terrified that I’ll be stuck without energy or drive and I’ll be reduced to a useless middle ground of pointless non-achievement. So no, I won’t take drugs. I won’t try and “fix” whatever it is that is “wrong” with me. I absolutely feel for those whose lives have been destroyed by this condition. I will forever fear that I will slip further in to it and become a bumbling wreck. Or that it will be passed on to my children. But I won’t give it up. I will forever look forward to my productive highs and dread my terrible lows.

I will forever fear that I will slip further in to it and become a bumbling wreck.

I started this little article by quoting Stephen Fry. I find him to be an incredible source of inspiration. Not only because he suffers from the same condition that I do, nor simply because I find his ability to use it to his advantage, to become a household name despite, or even because of, this hell of a condition. But because he gives me hope, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many other suffers of bipolarity have felt the same. That we can be “normal”; that we can be great and useful to society and instil some kind of love and respect in others. That we can have multiple attributes to our personality that mean we are more than this part of our brain to be defined by. What triggered this article for me may have been the documentary Stephen Fry made on Manic Depression. And in particular a quote in a letter written to an American recipient of electric shock treatment. “I continue to suffer in bliss and agony.” Bliss and Agony. Perfect.

I hope that people will understand the difficulty I have experienced in deciding to write this piece. I don’t expect you to. If I was low I wouldn’t have written it, indeed in a few days I may hate myself for publishing it. Right now I’m manic. Or at least coming off of it. I desperately want people to hear my voice. I even know how pathetic and sad that sounds. But that’s the beauty of this condition. I like that I have managed to get this out there before I stop myself from hitting send.

I don’t expect a reply. I just need to purge the energy that I’m feeling. I need to sleep and I can’t without screaming all of this from the hilltops. Oscar Wilde once said that “the man who calls a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing that he is fit for”. In that, I leave this article. Asking only one thing. Do not judge me, or anyone else. At least not verbally. Don’t pity us either. Just read, listen, understand and accept and we shall do the same for you.

This article was originally posted on Lewis’ blog and republished on The Tab with with his permission.