On Mental Health Awareness Month

Music sweet music,
I wish I could caress, caress, caress,
manic depression’s a frustrating mess.
—Jimi Hendrix, Manic Depression

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am not a serial killer. I have never been a character on Criminal Minds. All I really am is just a girl with a mood disorder. My diagnosis of bipolar disorder explained so much to me about my life. But it left me with even more questions. My friends read The New York Times bestsellers. I read The Bell Jar. Is everyone else light and only me dark?

Madness.

I live in The Very Dark Place, but my mask is firmly seated. I look just like you—but inside of my mind lives a girl trapped in a chaotic, maelstrom of mood. As a bipolar once said, I am not the girl in the attic. I am the attic. Only the most loyal of my friends have remained with me. I wonder why they stay. I do not even want to stay when my self-loathing overcomes me. My sudden spurts of creativity, where my painting and writing come brilliantly alive, have amazed many. But when the darkness consumes me again, nobody understands why I suddenly cannot paint or write and remain alone in my house for great periods of time. It is an endless cycle of mania to depression. Depression to mania.

Madness.

Using a pseudonym, as I sometimes do, is a scion of the mental illness stigma, especially the more maligned ones like bipolar disorder. Only a few trusted friends, immediate family and my confidential support group know that I am an unfortunate girl chained to chaotic moods. Colleagues never knew of it, nor do many of my wider circles of friends. I am sure that some suspect, or have even guessed, by my erratic and impulsive behavior. I am typically described as, “Quirky, with an edge.”

Madness.

What overwhelms me, and most of my bipolar comrades, are three facts.

1.This is an invisible illness. You can see cancer. You can see the ravaging effects of multiple sclerosis. You can see someone bleeding out onto the sidewalk. A mind, though? No, minds are ethereal and invisible. All you can hope to glimpse is the madness’ results; results that can be equally as devastating as any physical illness.

2.There is no cure. I will be tossed around this stormy sea for the rest of my life. Through introspection, I am beginning to discover my limits and boundaries. I must constantly surround myself with what support I can manage. I seek psychiatrists who are able to keep me on an effective med buffet; I seek therapy and learn cognitive skills; and I seek support from my fellow bipolars. Eating well, exercise, and sleep are priorities.

3.Stability is not a right or guarantee. Through no fault of my own I occasionally find myself treading water in the Deep End of the Pool. As a survivor of past episodes, I know they will not last and eventually I’ll return to stability by summoning up my skills, reaching out for support, and with great fortitude I wait them out.

Perhaps one day I will completely out myself as bipolar. But not just yet. Until then, I hide behind my mask and pray no one sees the madness inside my mind.

Photo Credit: The Whisperer of the Shadows Flickr via Compfight cc

Dori Owen

Dori Owen is a storyteller, writing from small town Arizona, after living a few decades in California as an LA Wild Child, with a brief stop in Reno. She settled into grownup life as a project manager, collecting an MBA and a few husbands along the way. She is a shown artist and her favorite pastime is upcycling old furniture and decor she finds from thrift stores. She lives with the cat who came to visit but stayed. The love of her life is her grown son who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her essays and poems have been published in RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I, StigmaFighters Vol 2, and Love Notes From Humanity. Her blogs have been featured on The Lithium Chronicles, Open Thought Vortex, Sudden Denouement, and The Mighty.

One thought on “On Mental Health Awareness Month

  1. Susan P. BlevinsSusan P. Blevins Reply

    Hi darling Dori,
    Oh my, you always move me deeply when you write of this burden that you bear. But I do so admire you for your courage to be honest, and your wisdom in knowing that each episode will eventually pass. This is definitely a moment when you need to be with what I call ‘the family of my heart’, which has nothing to do with blood bonds. I often send you oodles of love and big hugs, and I am doing so even more right now! Love you Dori!
    Susan xo

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