“I never connected your being Bipolar with mental illness”. That was what my son said to me yesterday. He said he knew I had extreme highs and lows, because I had told him that years ago when I was formally diagnosed in my late 40’s. He has known me for his 50 plus years and said that he has never considered me abnormal, just an out of the box mom and grandma. I told him that extreme depression also rested under the umbrella of mental illness. He said ” Well lots of people fit that picture”. I said “Pretty much”. I started thinking about all of the labels and behaviors that are linked to being Bipolar. I wondered why I had never shared any of that information with him before now. Answer, I wanted to shield him form what it was really like having this life long sentence. I didn’t want him to know the extent of the pain I had suffered. I have been hiding.
Guess it is time to memorialize what some of my experiences have been and some of the consequences attached to them. Two words come to mind that are closely connected, obsessive and compulsive. Those words are joined at the hip to manic episodes, which is the top extreme of the Bipolar spectrum.
Here is a story that might clarify life with a manic theme. My love of quilting has led me to many manic, obsessive and compulsive episodes. I love fabric. Over the years I have bought a lot of it. I was never able to go into a shop without walking out with hundreds of dollars worth of fabric. When a local quilt shop went out of business and had a huge going out of business sale I was their best customer. I bought bolts. There is not a quitter in the world who doesn’t have more fabric than they need, but I doubt they have three closets packed full of fabric, and a room with boxes filled with material that goes from floor to ceiling. I had a four tiered shelf in the laundry room that went from floor to ceiling as well stacked with material, and a row of built-in cupboards also filled with supplies relating to my hobby. I had numerous storage boxes full of cloth lining my garage walls. When I moved into my little apartment where I now live I had to rent two storage units for all of my treasures and supplies. That is an example of being obsessive and compulsive, big time.
The consequences have been many. I have had to face the fact that I could never live long enough to turn my stash into my dream designs even if I sewed 24/7, and sewed 365 days a year. I was also wasting money paying for storage units. Out of sight out of mind. I temporarily forgot what I had stored. I started giving my stash away to two charities. I gave seven boxes to a cousin who was visiting WA from TX, was a quitter and was traveling in a pick-up truck. I literally felt my heart-break when I let my fabric leave my life forever. When viewing each piece I was giving away I could remember where I bought it, how much I paid for it, and could picture the project I had planned for it to be a part of. I opened up each box I gave my cousin and said a silent good-bye. To this day I can’t go into a fabric shop, or a quilt show because I cannot trust myself to act responsibly. I don’t look at quilt books because I have more ideas in my head that are much more interesting to me and are more creative than anything I see on the pages of fiber-art publications. After four years I still have at least 15 to 20 boxes of fabric sitting in my apartment. It has become a burden, as I haven’t worked on a project in over a year. I still get sad when I think about giving what stash I have left away, but know I must sooner or later. At least I have gotten rid of enough that I no longer need the storage units.
Depression is the other extreme of being Bipolar. I think the general subject has been well documented, and society understands its definition. I cannot predict when I will go “underground” as I call it. But I have figured out one trigger I have experienced in the past. After I have finished a big quilting project I have felt down after I have given it away. It was my baby. I had put my heart and soul into it. I really wanted it to have the home it was made for. I just missed it . When this has happened I tell myself that I am not depressed,even though I know I am. I say to myself that I just need some rest to refill my tank that I emptied completing the quilt. I usually don’t stay down for long. The downs usually match the ups in their intensity.
This is only a birds eyed view of my experiences. Explaining my disorder will take many more keystrokes to fully explain how being Bipolar has affected me in my journey. I have said it before and will keep on saying that, I look at “Me” as having no filter connected to my emotions. My wiring and chemistry make up are factors in my being Bipolar. And I truly believe God never makes junk. I believe people in society have similar feelings that I have, mine are just enhanced.