Imagine you're driving down the freeway, cruising along at 75 MPH and then when you least expect it, WHAM!
The person in the passenger seat moves their foot over and stomps on your brake pedal.
Imagine the smell of the burning rubber, the sound the poor mechanics of the car would make, coming to such an instant halt, and the likelihood that you'd get rear-ended by the driver behind you through no fault of their own, or yours, but your passenger's.
Or, imagine driving along high, dangerous, treacherous mountain trails. Taking your time, easing along, and then LOOK OUT! Your passenger kicks your foot out of the way and presses the gas to the floor, leaving you to try to steer your way safely through the dangerous terrain while going at speeds no one ever intended for that road.
Again, not your fault, but the fault of your passenger.
Now, imagine no one could see your passenger but you.
This is what it's like living with an invisible brain disorder, like Bipolar 1, as I do.
This is what it's like when your doctors are forced to change your meds not once, not twice, but multiple times in the past year (I stopped counting back at four.) All changes mandatory due to medical side effects, not just because you didn't like the way that they made your feel, or the fact that they made you gain fifty (yes, five-zero) pounds in the past 12 months.
(Ask me how much I hate looking in my closet at all the stuff I can't wear.)
I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, I know a lot of people have medical challenges that they live with every day.
It's just that there is a stigma still, to disorders like Bipolar 1, (not so much any more with PTSD and OCD which I also have) and I believe, still some belief that the person who is living in the body, and with the brain, controlled by said disorder has some control over it.
Let me tell you, if I believed a year ago that I had control over it, or that I was to blame in any way for it, I don't believe that any longer. Because I have traveled too many different roads with the invisible passenger to believe it any longer.
I have also heard this from my team of professionals at the times we were all 'at the mercy of my biochemistry' as they did DNA testing to try to figure out the safest path for me to take next medically because I was made so physically sick by the medicines they'd tried. Medicines, and dosages, that most people can handle with no problem at all totally freak my body out. Must be that whole 'genetic mutant' thing.
But at any rate, it's like having a new brain installed every time they change these potent chemical mixtures, and you don't know sometimes for weeks where you're going to land.
It's a journey that I would not wish on my worst enemy. It is deadly serious, and that's the reason that I tend to react badly when people having a rough day say they are 'so bi-polar' or make other jokes of that sort.
This is the disorder that has tried to kill me more than once and does succeed in killing too many because they don't seek treatment or can't stay on it. Forgive me if I don't find that funny.
I have watched the meds change me, every time they're changed. Some for better, some for worse, until now when I am cautiously hopeful because things seem to be going better. I've had periods of time like this in the past and then the bottom fell out: my kidneys rebelled, I swelled up like a whale or some other such reaction caused them to immediately slam on the brakes-- to take the med away.
I've had my ability to write and paint and even listen to and play music flipped on and off like a light switch, and it is not a matter of attitude, or wanting it, or even energy levels. It is frightening when something you once loved can become a torment to you, or you feel tormented because the words or colors or melodies are just out of your reach, and you want so badly to catch them.
People may wonder why I talk about this, why I put myself out there on this issue as much as I have when there is still such a stigma.
It's because of the stigma that I do it. People need to understand about the invisible, unwanted passenger.
People need to understand that it's a matter of chemistry and biology, not a matter of attitude and choice.
It is a bad draw from the deck of genetic cards, and it could just as easily have been you rather than me.
It's a brain disorder, just like epilepsy and others and I will keep saying that over and over until the day the antiquated, hurtful terms for these kinds of disorders disappear from our vocabulary.
It is like getting a new brain installed every time they change things on me, medically.
My heart, however, seems to stay the same.