HANGING ON BY THE THINNEST OF THREADS
After spinning around this Big Blue Marble 455,520 times (52 years), I have endured my fair share of trials, tribulations, and challenges. Yet few have required me to summon more spiritual perseverance and to call upon the Higher Power of my understanding for more strength than living as a high functioning person with a serious mental illness.
My Bipolar Disorder began manifesting itself when I was in the latter part of elementary school through obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior. I had also had insomnia as far back as I could remember. And I experienced my first full blown depressive episode at age 18 when I went away to college.
Over the years, my depression, my obsessions, my compulsions, my impulsive behavior, my hypomania, my mania (I have had three full blown episodes thus far in life), my distorted thinking, my paranoia, my racing thoughts, and my anxiety worsened.
Before I was diagnosed and slowly acquired the willingness to apply a regimen to stay stable, I self-medicated with alcohol and pornography; I shop lifted; I vandalized; I worked obsessively -despite being under-employed for a number of years; I ran up astronomical debts; I abandoned my wife and children; I went to war against the establishment over Animal Rights; I went from one unstable relationship to another; I was hospitalized three times; and much more.
(My full story is here: https://www.survivingmypast.net/bipolar-life/)
Yet somehow, through all of the chaos, misery, and instability, I managed to suit up and show up day after day, save for the 8 weeks or so that I spent in psych wards in the 90’s.
Before getting into the solid recovery I have today, almost every span of 86,400 seconds that ticked by on the clock was fraught with anxiety, mild depression, full blown depression, hypomania, full blown mania, racing thoughts, shame, ruminations, self-hatred, and/or distorted thinking. I even managed to function “normally” (at least in terms of fulfilling adult responsibilities) through three manic episodes.
Some days were indescribably terrifying and grueling as I essentially willed myself to continue to move forward despite the overwhelming emotional agony and crippling dysfunction swirling through my head. There were days when I was hanging on by the very thinnest of threads.
Working and performing basic functions like driving and shopping proved to be monumental challenges as my illness whittled my capacity to function down to a tiny sliver.
It was akin to playing football with a broken leg, splinting and taping it up before every game. Then playing your guts out to the final whistle.
There seems to be a misconception among some folks that because a person with an SMI remains functional, they must not have an SMI. Or it must not be that severe.
I am living proof, and I am here to testify, that there are those of us who with a severe mental illness who suffer immensely and sacrifice tremendously to stay functional.
Whether it’s out of fear of suffering the fate of many of our brothers and sisters who wind up in cages or on the streets. Or out of pride. Or through blessings and angels-in-skin afforded by our Higher Powers that enable us to stay afloat. Whatever the reason might be, there are people with serious mental illnesses who remain functional. Yet we do pay the price. And our suffering is quite real.