I always seem to struggle, even now, being able to describe what a life of having bipolar disorder is like. How do I convey the challenge it is to just get out of bed in the middle of a depressive swing, or how amazing it can feel to have endless energy and laugh at everything for no reason. To be all smiles all day, then come home and completely lose it watching an “adopt a dog” commercial with that Sarah McLachlan song. Tears and snot just streaming out of your face and your family looks at you with a deep sadness knowing that there is absolutely nothing they can do for you.
“Just get out of bed and do something,” was a typical response from those who really didn’t understand bipolar disorder, not understanding that I literally couldn’t get myself out of bed. For most of my life, I didn’t possess the tools to get through those moments. I could always ride out the highs, but damn those lows were brutal. I had thought often of ending it all, now I never really had a plan but I really would pray, “God you can just take me and end this.”
I think my ex-fiancé described it well when she broke up with me, ( in front of a Chic-fil-a at the mall after yet another stint in a mental hospital) she said, “Troy I love you with all my heart but I can’t do this. Every day with you is an adventure, but you live in Oz, and while there is the fun yellow brick road and laughs, there are also scary witches, tornados, and flying monkeys. I love you but I can’t keep this up. It is exhausting. I want to go home.” It definitely hurt at the time but looking back it really makes sense. I had created a mess of my life and took everyone around me into chaos; they were all abducted by me to the scary land of Oz.
I wish I could tell you the exact point when I moved into Oz, but the truth is I don’t know. The proverbial ‘which came first, the mental illness or addiction?’ is a question I still can’t answer. I was on a slippery slope for such a long time that I can no longer discern when I drifted off. All I know is when I “woke up” in Florida in 2015, beaten and broken inside and out, I realized I had been living in Oz. My life had been completely burned to the ground and I had taken friends and family into that chaotic land with me. I had to own the fact that this was on me. I was responsible for hurting not just myself but everyone around me, including my own son. Oz is no place for a child, or for me. The old adage of “I hate having bipolar disorder, I love it” was true. But I finally surrendered to the process while in treatment; I battled back and slowly came out. Just like I can’t tell you when I went in, I also can’t tell you when I got out.
Today I recognize that chaos doesn’t find me, moreover, I find it. For some reason, I look for crazy lifestyles that fit in my bipolar brain. That is what makes sense to me. That is what I know. I struggle every day to make sense of my day, my life. Sobriety, medication, and structure are the keys for me. A regular day with a set schedule is one powerful method I have to keep out of Oz. It is always there, calling me back to live in a crazy world. Oz is an amazing place full of big highs and huge lows, great laughs, and waterfalls of tears. To those who can’t or haven’t been here, I am envious of you, for you do not know the true darkness that a brain can create, and for those of you who have been here, I can tell you for certain a few things; You can get out, you can get help, and you can get better. Oz never leaves you and I would love to say that since I am on my meds and sober life is great, but the darkness is there every day. It is how I handle it that is what makes my day ok.
I visit Oz from time to time, there are days that my head gets the best of me and I slip back into the chaos, but those days are fewer and fewer now. I can control the wizard behind the curtain more and more. I don’t know when I slipped into Oz, and I have to be content to maybe never know. It is the journey that I understand. How I got there and what I do to get out. Recognizing moments, bits of time that indicate I was here. The many hospitals, life on the streets, and memories of lost relationships are all markers that help me recognize my journey in. I need to understand that I will never be cured, Oz will always call me. I will always be bipolar but now in my life, I don’t have to stay. I can get out. There is darkness every day and the rollercoaster will never stop for me, but there is also the sun, the light, and hope that this will be a better hour than the last.
As I sit on the beach, demons still in my head but quieted by the soft sounds of the ocean, I am at peace. I woke up today sober and with the grace of God tonight I will go to bed sober. I really like that guy in the mirror; he is at long last home… And there is no place like home….
If you or a loved one are struggling, please reach out. We can help!