…I’m not bipolar. Might sound like a strange thing to be relieved about, especially as it’s not exactly something one is generally thankful for on a daily basis ("thank fuck it’s not raining" "thank fuck it’s hometime" "thanks be to whatever deity I don’t believe in for Steve McManaman" or perhaps rather like the Orthodox Jewish prayer "thank you God for not making me a woman"; "thank fuck I’m not bipolar" tends not to come very high on the list of popular culture thanks).
But there it is. I’m not bipolar, and I’m thankful. And I’ve had my non-bipolar-ness confirmed by a psychiatrist, after waiting several weeks and keeping several pointless appointments. It wasn’t as clear cut a case as you might think (or perhaps you think the psychiatrist got it wrong; it all depends on your opinion of this blog) – after watching Stephen Fry’s Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and recognising an aspect of what they were describing, I’d been thinking to myself that if there were a mild version of bipolar it might fit me, but of course there isn’t a mild version of bipolar disorder.
Actually, there is, and it’s called cyclothymia. When I heard about that I got seriously fucking worried. Here might be a good time to go into the secret depths of my head, and give you an introduction to my version of normality.
‘Normal’ is a subjective thing. Every person filters reality according to their own personal beliefs, mood, upbringing, etc. There is no such thing as a definitive reality because everyone has their own perception. There is, though, what I think of as a ‘majority experience’, which is what people think of as ‘normality’. Some people are permanent optimists, others can only ever see the black side. Most people are somewhere in between. Me? I’m both.
I experience cycles of ups and downs. I’ve written before about the depressive side, that black cloud that saps all energy and life and enthusiasm and leaves me a blank shell. I can exert myself enough to just about function around people and not arouse comment, but it’s exhausting. If I’m not around people, I don’t move: I sit at the kitchen table for hours, not reading, not listening to the radio, not thinking. Just sitting. If it weren’t for the cat standing over me demanding to be fed, I wouldn’t get up.
But. The ups. Ohhh my, the ups. For each depth of depression reached, there’s an upswing of a corresponding size which either manifests as frustrated energy (occasionally developing into wall-kicking) or, more usually, a ridiculous sense of bubbling joy. It’s like I’ve got strings attached to my shoulders and I’m being pulled upwards. I grin at nothing when I’m just walking around (please remember: this good mood isn’t caused by anything external. I can be like this come rain, come shine), the sky is bluer, the world is more beautiful, people are funnier, food is tastier, I can do anything, I can take on anyone and win.
And I know what it’s like to be balanced – I go through balanced or ‘normal’ on my way to one or other of these extremes, on the way up or down. I just don’t stay there very long… it’s an incredibly dull place to be, anyway. It’s grey. There’s no excitement, everything’s just "OK". I’m used to things being either fire or ice, black or sparkly, cherry-blossom scented or dead and wilting. If I had to live in that in-between state I’d just kill myself.
This is what I told my GP a couple of months ago. Didn’t mention the word ‘bipolar’. If anything, I was explaining to him why my current anti-depressants aren’t working and why I wanted to come off them – I don’t think they’re meant for whatever it is that I have/am, cos they’re not making a blind bit of difference. Anyway, he referred me to my local Community Mental Health Team where I saw a non-psychiatrically-qualified box-ticker (but hey, it got me off the waiting list) and last week I saw an actual psychiatrist. The fact that it got to that level in the stretched psychological services of the NHS says, I think, a lot about how unsure they were, and how borderline I am. Anyway, the psychiatrist says that he can’t see any evidence of being "out of control" in any of my ‘up’ periods, which rules out mania or hypomania: thus, I am not bipolar. He still wants to monitor me for several months, just to make absolutely sure.
So what is it? The psychiatrist thinks it’s "just the way you are". (Cheers, mate. And there I was, worried you were going to be vague about this.) No, I ‘merely’ have an extreme personality; in other words, this is hardwired into me and aint changing. We discussed therapy but if, as he thinks, it is hardwired in there’s not an awful lot therapy could do and we decided it’s probably not worth it. I am coming off the drugs though, see what I’m like chemical free.
So. Anyway. That’s my excuse for being weird. What’s yours?