house of mirrors
when my psychiatrist described some common thoughts and feelings among bipolars, i sometimes thought she was reaching into my brain and pulling out my own life experiences. honestly i was a little creeped out that what she said hit so close to home. especially because she said it in the context of having treated bipolars for 15-20 years, so she had some experience to back up what she was saying. i couldn’t ignore her anymore.
much of what she talked about had to do with the thrill-seeking behavior that tends to occur in manic or hypomanic periods, and feelings about how bipolars relate to others such as feelings of being different, or that normal people are boring. i thought about my most cherished adventures and it occurred to me that i had had this exact conversation before, except it was with others who felt the same way.
those partners in crime facilitated some of the most exhilarating experiences, such as breaking into the Port of Los Angeles, climbing down into coal mines or on top of trains, finding abandoned buildings in downtown LA and scaling the gutted interior to reach the roof. Ducking into the back corridors of the Kodak Theater on Hollywood and Vine and posing as a family member of the staff so I could meet Val Kilmer and see him up close. Unwittingly finding myself on a drug run to get cocaine in the ghetto of Barcelona. Changing my appearance to escape a boring, self-absorbed lawyer in New York City. Smoking pot in Central Park while police patrol nearby. Going to a house party in BFE Alaska and having sex in the back of a U-Haul until the sun rose. Sneaking an eighth of pot through customs to get on a Cruise Ship by putting it in the middle of a clear plastic makeup case. Helping to initiate girl-on-girl sex in a hot tub in front of 10 peers. Jumping off a boat in the ocean and throwing my bikini back on deck, having sex in a CVS bathroom or in a parking lot. Running a short distance down from the city’s movie-on-the-beach night leaving clothes every 10 ft until I’m nude and splashing around in the water at 11pm. offroading in the desert and finding an old stone hut, where we perch and drink beers and smoke cigarettes and pot. Finding myself at a pool party with 100 naked undergraduates.
these experiences, to me, are the reason to live. these experiences are where i find the meaning of life, and of self. the freedom, the soaring sensation, the adrenaline, the ever pushing toward the edge to see just how close you can get.
if that means that i am hypomanic and, by extension, bipolar, then i accept this fate because i wouldn’t give up those experiences or my affinity for them for anything.
but as i’ve been processing the possibility that those experiences reflect underlying mental illness, i wonder, but what of those who shared those experiences with me? does this mean they are bipolar too?
i asked my psychiatrist if she thought that bipolar people tend to flock together, if they’re more likely to be friends with one another, or even lovers. she said she thought this was definitely possible. could it be true that many of my closest friends shared these same traits due to a common underlying disorder?
and then i started to panic a bit because i realized they had no idea that they might be bipolar. after having read a bunch of articles about the progression of untreated bipolar, all of the sudden it felt more like i was surrounded by ticking time bombs than people. someone had to do something! i asked the psychiatrist about the ethics of telling someone they should consider a psych evaluation. is it worse if i do or worse if i don’t?
i haven’t figured out an answer.
i have, however, stepped into some kind of twisted house of mirrors. maybe i’ve just felt normal this whole time because i surrounded myself with others with mental illness.
maybe that’s why i experienced culture shock when i moved to a new state for graduate school, because normal people didn’t know what to make of me. let’s just say my favorite unique characteristics have not exactly been encouraged here.
perhaps, now that i know whats not like me, i am quicker to identify those who are. except when i think back about my history, it starts to feel like nearly everyone is bipolar and that can’t possibly be right, can it? i mean, then we’re just diagnosing the thrill seekers, the adventurers, the ones who play by their own rules. the ones Kerouac described in On the Road:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
and if, as some say, bipolar is just the new trendy diagnosis and in fact bipolarity is not true for my peers with whom i so closely identify, then maybe, just maybe, it isn’t true for me either?
and the thought process goes on.
so i wait for second and third opinions and try not to diagnose everyone around me too. sometimes though, i just can’t help it. for example, i just watched Exit Through The Gift Shop, a documentary about street art. I was drawn to it because its said to be a BANKSY film and i have a super mega crush on that guy’s brain. It turns out to be mostly about this eccentric French guy and I found myself convinced that he is bipolar. He’s gotta be. The movie is available on Netflix, so check it out and let me know if you agree.