The thing I don’t like about being angry is that it isn’t the me that I want to be. It’s a nuclear fireball, a complete eradication of the rest of my personality. For a few seconds, everything that I love becomes less than a memory. The witnesses to my explosion see a six foot six inch tall brute with a beard screaming at the top of his lungs and waving his arms about. Wouldn’t you be scared? Wouldn’t you keep that memory in your head purely for reasons of defense?
These scenes came more frequently when I was soaring in and out of manias and mixed states. It isn’t hard to see that my anger could be tied to my suicidal inclinations. Because I could not and would not destroy the objects of my ire, I turned that impulse towards myself. One time too many it brought me to a place where I was studying the veins on my wrist. Beyond the eradication of myself that was caused by my disease, lay the prospect of self-annihilation as punishment or revenge.
Maybe now you can understand my reaction that came while I was planting vinegar weed at the Native Seed Farm. I had done something stupid — I had mentioned my involvement in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in a passing comment. Most people let it drop, but this one woman wanted to know more. What were the people like? Was I ever scared? And then the most stigmatizing thing someone can say about someone who takes his meds faithfully: don’t the meds erase your personality?
Weekend time on the ward was spent waiting for someone to talk to you. I was standing in front of the nurses’ station, having completed the obligatory morning group therapy, when I was guided to a small room and told to have a seat. Then a large bearded man with a file came into the room and read over the notes that had been collected since my arrival the night before. I had arrived late the previous afternoon after I had texted my last will and testament to my wife and sat on a log studying which vein to cut. A phone call from my psychiatrist interrupted my concentration. We talked for a few minutes and I agreed to go to the hospital. Once I got there, I — the fellow who had been thinking of ending it all — walked up to the nurses’ station and told them that I was diabetic and needed my night meds delivered on schedule if I was going to maintain my blood sugar levels. They nodded dutifully and wrote notes in my chart.
This information was in the manila folder that Dr. Spears brought into the room. After reviewing the annotations, he looked up at me, leaned forward, and asked in a gentle voice “Has anyone ever told you that you were bipolar?”
Many people have told me that they were devastated when they heard the news. Others refused to believe it. I was of that class of people who felt a moment’s pause and then felt relief. At last I had a workable explanation of the torrential moods that afflicted me over the years. I had tried the boot-strap method of getting through my despairs. People had sometimes asked me if I was taking drugs — a question that surprised me because I was the opposite of an addict and a self-medicator — I didn’t touch drugs or alcohol. For 11 years, I had relied on Prozac because it had worked almost instantly to curb my depression. The dark nights of the soul I experienced during that time I wrote off to normal ups and downs. I spent up our credit cards to $40,000, messed up my already fragile teeth by grinding on them, and fought frequently with people on the Net. Was this bipolar disorder? Then, I felt, there was a treatment and I threw myself into recovery.
Bipolar_Blogs arose when I learned that it was possible to set up a special account for retweeting news. I knew that there were many people out there in the world who wrote good blogs about their struggle with bipolar disorder (including me) whose work just wasn’t making it out to the rest of the world. The blogs I knew from my own explorations told many stories about bipolar disorder. I collected a list, set them up at a feed retweeter, and released it into the Twitterverse. What people also missed was recent and reliable information about their disorder. So I added feeds from the various government agencies that provided abstracts on the latest developments in understanding organic brain dysfunctions. When my ADD allowed it, I sought out more blogs, found new news sources, and hand-posted numerous articles that I had found which talked about bipolar disorder and other matters concerning the brain.
But not every voice could be heard via the feeds. Some of them tweeted their concerns directly to Bipolar_Blogs and I made it the policy to retweet them as long as they weren’t hateful, promoting pseudo-science, or simply advertising. When I had the energy, I checked my ever-expanding feed to glean what I could from others. There is only so much one can say in 140 characters even if you are a Twitter master. I kept running into people who wanted their own blogs and didn’t know how to start. The day came when I put out feelers, asking who would like to take part in a group blog. I also asked in some chatrooms and on Facebook. A few people indicated their interest, so I wrote out some rules for the blog and invited those who felt silenced by the circumstances of their illness to take part.