Meredith Speaks: on BipolarBy Merri Leston
The rain is pouring outside whilst my writing drizzles. Every word carries the weight of a thousand thoughts. Every thought born from a torrent of feeling, pulling in polar directions. I freeze.
I write better in depression, though my words stumble over themselves with decisions and revisions (reversed by the minute). But Mania elevates them to nonsense. Without my inner critic I become canon – shooting across the page as nuance, and then grammar, become my first fatalities.
Each passing year is a zodiac diagnosis. Bipolaris my Cinderella year; the shoe fits, though needs breaking in to prevent cutting.
Ay, but then here’s the rub:
The mania of ‘Merriness’ is not something I’m ready to give up. For those precious days I am bigger than myself and fantasy is at my fingertips. But Bipolar deals in melancholy and modafinil in equal measure. What comes up must come down: only this comedown is soul shattering.
Mental illness is a hierarchy, though we don’t care to admit it. Depression and anxiety are increasingly getting a free pass where schizophrenia, BPD and bipolar are met with raised eyebrows, whispers and even considered criminal (straight to jail, do not pass go/ collect £200).
Lithium’s monopoly on treatment scares me. I know it’s a game changer for so many, but I am frightened of balance. What if my sparkle is dimmed? More rough than diamond?
I dip my toe into the murky waters of anticonvulsants. What if these waters turn too strong – or worse – too stable? How many wise men would it take to sign me away? But let’s be frank – there’s no room at the inn without BUPA, anyway. It makes no sense.
Even my relationship with this label is bipolar. I feel legitimacy now whereas I felt alone before. But a label can stick too far – every part of me seems extreme, wrong. Where am I in all this? Are my dreams delusion? Are my skills born from sickness? I’ve never second guessed myself before but now I’m losing count.
This all sounds very romantic; just another self-indulgent mentally ill person, right? But it is easier for me to dress my illness in hyperbole and pretty words than to admit how afraid I am.
Perhaps my sparkle has been an Icarus – is this eclipse a welcome reprieve for exhausted friends, family alike? After all, My relationships ride this metronome with me – some want to get off (and I don’t blame them). How could anyone love my Hyde equally with my Jekyll?
But hiding won’t help – treatment has to begin. Mania is too fair weather to be trusted, a friend that stabs me in the front. I hope I will be recognisable afterwards though. I don’t want to be a snake mourning her shed skin – what if my bright colours only cover grey?
I am so frightened. This is unchartered territory and I don’t have time for some voyage of discovery.
I want to keep my Golden Fleece.