Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Just another manic monday

The second Monday evening of every month sees me schlepping 15 miles over to my nearest bipolar support group meeting. I’ve been going for about six months now, and the relief every time I step foot through the door is something I would pay significant amounts of money for. Actually, scrap that – I would pay significant amounts of chocolate for it.

It’s not that it’s necessarily a fun place to be. Sometimes the pain in that room is palpable. Everybody there has had their world thrown into chaos by the evilness of bipolar, whether it’s their own diagnosis or that of someone they love. No, fun is not a word I would use.

It’s real. Everybody comes in exactly as they are, no superhero capes required. We sit in a circle, drink decaf coffee (caffeine is not good for mania), and just be. No secret identity, no hiding our actual selves. One of my favourite writers, Glennon Melton of Momastery fame, once said “It’s far braver to be Clarke Kent than it is to be Superman.” Our little room is full of Clarke Kents. Clarke Kents with a sense of humour – nowhere can you be quite as sarcastic and cynical and downright irreverent of mental illness than in a room full of psych patients.

A couple of months ago, my ‘real’ was hardly there. I was so low that I could hardly move, and every sentence took an age to formulate and full minutes to get out. My fellow groupers just waited, bless them. They looked at my greasy hair and the rings under my eyes, and knew it had taken a week’s worth of energy just to get to the meeting. They fed me chocolate chip cookies, and gathered around with their love and acceptance. No pretending, no making it better, just letting me be.

This month was different. I was doing well. My meds had been tweaked, the mood stabiliser was kicking in, and I had not only washed my hair for the occasion, but could be a part of the conversation with whole sentences. Somehow, no one was depressed, which is a rarity in a group of bipolarites – normally we illustrate the whole swing of emotion. It was actually turning into a pleasant evening.

Then Jen arrived. Jen for whom Jenny or Jennifer is just too long to say because there are too many more words that need saying right now. Jen is always balancing on the edge of fully fledged mania, but tonight it was like she’d thrown herself off the tightrope and somehow managed to fly. She turned up as if coming to a meeting was the most amazing way to spend her evening, telling us all about how much better she felt than last time and what colour the sky was, and how it was far too long since she’d seen her relatives in Iceland.

But she wasn’t talking sense. Her brain was moving too fast for her speech to keep up with, so each thing she said was completely unrelated to the last. Letting slip that she hadn’t slept in over a hundred hours was the last nail in the dazzling multi-coloured mania coffin.

There’s only so much you can do when you’re in a support group where by definition you’re all as messed up as each other. We managed to phone the crisis team and get someone out to see her, and got her home in one piece. By the end of the week she’d been sectioned.

The bugger with bipolar – and so many other mental illnesses – is that you can be ill without really knowing how ill you are. Especially on the manic end. So every time I see someone who is manic and low on self-awareness, the fear kicks in. I am made aware all over again that I could become that ill, and the only solution would be for all my super support people to take control away from me. And it suddenly hit me that this thing is forever. Jen is in her late fifties, and still doesn’t completely have a hold on what’s going on in her head. I’m 34, and could have another forty odd years of this, never knowing when I might become ill again, or how bad it could get. Or whether I will have friends around to bail me out. Jen seems to be all alone at the moment. Her son is the one having to deal with her. I don’t want my kids to have to deal with me.

And the other thing that has really hit me is that she’s a Christian, and yet still has bipolar. She has bipolar, and she’s a Christian. The more I say it, the less I understand how those two things can go hand in hand. It’s not that I think we should be immune because we love Jesus, but I do think that there are some issues where we should be provided a get out of jail free card. If we are running the race set before us, it stands to reason, in my mind, that there are some obstacles we’d be better off without. Bipolar makes it so much harder to persevere. My path is blocked my my brain. Do not pass go, do not collect $200….

The verse that I quote to myself every day is 2 Timothy 1:7 – that God gives us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. And yet, looking at Jen tonight, I’ve realised that I can’t rely on it. There might be times when my mind is not sound, and that scares the crap out of me. Back in January, when hypomania came a-knocking, I would have said I was making perfect sense, but then, that’s what Jen would have said about herself this evening, and it’s scary that I could get like that again without seeing the signs or doing something to stop it. I know in theory that I have to accept that this is an illness, and that I have to figure out a way to live with it and treat it and not let it overtake me, but in practise I’m just not sure how I do that. It’s so easy to say of Jen tonight that she’s ill, and needs treatment, but for some reason I think I’m making a big fuss about nothing, or that I just have a personality flaw that I can talk myself out of.

If only there were a neat, tidy, straight-edged answer to all of this. I really wanted to have a final, witty paragraph that put the proverbial cherry on the sweet and sour sundae of bipolar. I guess part of growing up is finding that life isn’t simple. When MicroBob does a puzzle, he always looks for the straight edges first, then follows them until he has the entire picture in front of him. It seems that as we grow up we need to get used to the funny shaped puzzles that don’t fit together the way we expect, and just hope that the picture is just as beautiful when we get to the end of it.

And hope that no pieces are lost under the sofa – that’s a whole other blog post!