Have you seen the two-part documentary ‘The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’ by Stephen Fry? If you live with bipolar disorder, or have a friend or family who does, it is highly recommended viewing.
At the end of the final episode, Stephen Fry had asked the people he’d interviewed whether if they had the option of being free from bipolar disorder by pressing a red button, would they press it? Surprisingly, most said they would not. They felt it would take away a fundamental part of themselves that they had come to love and value.
I thought very hard about this. There are most definitely times where I would most definitely love to be free of the illness…
I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and have suffered immense crippling, suicidal depressions, where I truly have no longer wanted to take another breath. I have fought with the demons inside my tortured mind, prayed for mercy and begged for my fragmented thoughts to cease, as I launched my fragile skull at yet another solid wall and burned away the pain of such torment with a flame, the sharpness snapping at my consciousness like a welcome intruder. The days and months of indescribable exhaustion, festering in a bottomless pit of dark, forboding thoughts, desperate to escape from a place where every tick of the clock was an eternity in hades.
There are times when I am avoiding the mountain of debtors letters, brought on by yet another manic spree of irresponsible and unfettered spending. And then the years where I am sinking in a sea of debt, struggling to appease my creditors, after the manic season is over.
There was the time I almost lost custody of my son. Its not easy being an unpredictably unstable mother with the label of a serious mental illness hanging over her head. Every battle I have fought to save my son, has fortified my soul a thousand-fold, and my one determined resolution is that I have a duty to stay well for my son’s sake, and the sake of his daddy in Heaven.
But for all the terrifying and disturbing aspects of this illness, there are parts of it which I have grown to love.
I swear I owe my creativity and drive to the manic aspects of my illness. Those flashes of inspiration at 3 in the morning, the pure creative energy surging through my mind, the limitless energy and enthusiasm. The sensation of every atom and cell of your being alive and stimulated and … so hard to describe but just an incredible feeling!
Even the psychoses have been an incredible experience, well the positive ones anyhow. Sitting in the garden, at the dead of night, the stars gleaming in the sky above, being in telepathic communication with other beings from far galaxies in the universe, is an exciting experience. Being the reincarnation of the blessed Virgin Mary is also quite remarkable. The buzz of hearing music that you just know was written for you personally is quite flattering. I know, its not real, but it was fun.
So if you asked me whether I would push the button to free myself of my disorder, I think the answer would have to be no, as I have grown to accept my condition and without it, I would just not be the same Sarah.
What about you? What would you do?