Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The "Bi" in Bipolar

Bipolar, as a term, has a pretty simple meaning: a mood disorder causing dramatic highs and lows. Two poles. Two extremes. But since one of my closest friends was diagnosed bipolar, I have come to understand that this duality is about more than just his mood. 

Analyzing my friend's feelings is one of the hardest aspects of his diagnosis for me. There are, in a sense, two parts to his happiness. The healthy kind and the unhealthy kind. It is cause for concern when he appears 'too happy;' a sign that he is entering a manic state. When he laughs freely and hard, when he is overly energetic, when he speaks excitedly, when he has a whirlwind of ideas - these are all previous symptoms he has displayed when entering a psychosis. Behaviours, of course, that one would normally be pleased to see when interacting with a friend; especially one who has recently seemed lethargic and disengaged, as his old medication made him. Constantly scrutinizing him has brought out a duality in me, as well: the part that finds pleasure in his happiness and the part that is always analyzing it for warning signs. An experience that often leaves me feeling anxious and guilty. 

There is also, of course, the divide between his old self, the one before his first episode and subsequent diagnosis, and the person he is now. Not so much in terms of what has changed for him medically, but in the sense of someone who has undergone a significant experience. I suppose he seems a bit older now. He has the air of someone who has seen and understood the unpredictability of life firsthand. With that, I would say, has also come maturity. For one thing, he seems to have become more conscious of his body's wellness, as well as more appreciative of those around him. 

This split between old and new is very distinct for me and I have developed separate feelings toward each one, another duality. I'm mostly angry with the old version - angry that he took his incredible brain for granted and used drugs to tamper with it. But those feelings don't transfer to the new one. I don't blame the current him. I miss the old one sometimes, the simplicity of our time together and the easiness of his demeanour. But I like the new version for different reasons and I hope the best of both of them combine eventually. 

There are many tremendous websites and organizations on this subject I could mention, but I'll limit myself to my favourite: To Write Love on Her Arms. Check them out if you're interested and buy one of their super sweet shirts.

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