So today is, they say, World Bipolar Day.
I didn’t know there was such a thing, truthfully, until I looked at my FB feed this morning and people were posting about it.
People who suffer from other forms of brain disorders, as far as I am aware, not Bipolar itself.
That moved me.
Also moving was finding out they chose today’s date for the event, March 30th, because it is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday.
How the pieces that were cleaved from you have shaped us all in so many ways… like a tool made with bright, diamond dust.
I’ve thought a lot about Bipolar Disorder in the past three and a half years since my diagnosis came, decades overdue. I have suffered from this disorder since childhood, I know it, along with anxiety that became OCD and, in, my thirties, also PTSD.
I was misdiagnosed with Major Depression for twenty years. The doctors I saw never put my rapid speech patterns, periods without sleep, periods of ‘crashing and burning’ and depressive episodes together. Maybe because I am prone to mixed states, in which depression combines with (in my case, internally turned) anger and agitation instead of the “I feel like I could fly” sorts of happy manias other maniacs get.
I wish I had those moments of bliss to escape into.
The closest times I have had was when I was able—no, when I was forced—compelled to write as fast as I could, my fingers struggling to keep up with the words inside my teeming brain as a character told me their story and I had to capture it.
Some of those stories have become my novels.
All of my novels have been written in varying states of mania.
It is impossible for me to write them any other way.
I found myself thinking of those two words while half asleep this morning, pondering the marking of World Bipolar Day. I had to really think about it for a little while before I could put my finger on just why.
Then I realized… it’s because we are faceted by our struggle with this nemesis called Bipolar Disorder; we are ground down from the raw material we were and we are shaped into someone—something—new.
Everyone knows diamonds are the hardest substance on earth. So hard that they can even be used to polish each other, with the right equipment and in the right hands.
Diamonds do not shine at all until they go through the process of cutting and polishing; many, many stages resulting in various cuts depending on the original shape of the stone. The cutter must decide, based on research and experience how to proceed to get the most out of each stone.
Bipolar is cutting away parts of us each day…and changing us. There is no stopping that. The question is, what will become of our shape—of who we are—and the little tiniest bits of us that could so easily be lost because they are difficult if not impossible to see with the naked eye?
Like diamond dust which can be repurposed into tools of all kinds, making them stronger, making them into Things That Can Shape Other Things, we must treasure the parts of ourselves that are stripped away, as well as those we keep as part of our whole. Because if we sweep up every little last bit of that dust as it is polished away from us, it could be used as art, music, stories. We could turn it into life skills to maximize our parenting abilities through our afflictions; we could create things and moments that bring happiness to others, though we are pained for the process.
Think about those who suffer from Bipolar Disorder as diamonds constantly undergoing polishing. Our process never finishes. As long as we live we are losing bits of ourselves, but we can reclaim some of them if we try. If we seek and accept help. If we find hope in treatment. If new treatments come along to replace those that are difficult, at best, as they exist now.
This photo of me was taken last summer, on a day trip to a museum in Toledo. It was the first time I had ever seen a Van Gogh in person.
|Me, beneath "Houses at Auvers" by Vincent Van Gogh|
I smiled, but then, I wept.
Because I could feel the pieces of Vincent in the painting, I could feel the beauty in his deep despair even as he saw the world around him as something still deserving to be portrayed in vivid, living colors.
I collected up little bits of the diamond dust that live in that painting, through his gift, and it became a part of me; something to remember, to call upon at the darkest times when I struggle.
We all struggle.
On this World Bipolar Day I would ask you to cast aside for a moment your biases, your stigmatized views of us as portrayed by the media, and I would ask you to get to know someone a little better who lives with the disorder, to educate yourself. Ask questions. Feel free to tweet me any you may have at @FebruaryGrace. I can’t give medical advice, but I can give you one person’s perspective as to what it is really like to live with this disorder (and the ones who, uninvited, accompany it in me.)
Ask. Listen. Learn.
And remember Vincent, because when he suffered, no one understood just why, and it pains me to think that he may have felt alone on this earth.
You have family of the heart, good sir, in so many more than you can imagine. I hope that somehow, now, you’ve found peace.
We will treasure every last speck of the diamond dust you left us; and we are made stronger, each one of us, when it fuses with our hearts, permeates the very blood in our veins, showing us through your eyes that the world is still worth fighting for, even against Bipolar Disorder.