As you may have guessed, I, too, have succumbed to the cliche of the Tortured Artiste. It's very liberating. If someone notices that I have just built a three-story chicken coop, complete with turrets and bell-tower, out of trees I gnawed down in the woods behind my house, I can just shrug and say, "Bipolar." If they catch me in my pajamas in the middle of the day sporting two-weeks' growth of leg-hair--that's right: "Bipolar."
But as much fun as this sounds, it does get inconvenient. Writing on a bad leg-hair day is like pulling teeth, and at the other end of the spectrum, it's hard to sit down when you feel like an explosion in a fun factory. There are a lot of meds that smooth out those ups and downs, and I have found one that does a right spanking good job of it, but there are still ups and downs, and bipolar disorder is characterized by a certain sensitivity. Stress aggravates the mood/energy swings, which makes it harder to solve problems, which increases stress... So we're told to "avoid stress." (mad laughter) Yeah, because that's gonna happen.
The obvious solution when you're having a bad brain day (week, month) is to explain the problem in a cheerful, humorous and matter-of-fact way to your landlord/boss/bank/publisher so that they know you are doing your best and will continue to be your brilliant, creative self as soon as they GET OFF MY BLEEPING A...
Wait, that's not right.
What I mean is, sometimes you just have to let people know what is going on. Trying to hide it or overcome it, or force your way through it just makes it worse until you have a complete breakdown. Another fun fact: people with bipolar disorder have a very high rate of suicide.
That was not actually a particularly fun fact.
I recently had to explain to somebody that the reason I was having trouble organizing some project or other was because I was...I was having a...I'm...
I had never actually noticed that there is a stigma to mental illness. Sure, it's all skittles and gravy when you're comparing neurological glitches with a casual acquaintance: "Asberger's? That's interesting; I have bipolar disorder. What meds do you take?" But when you have to explain a really serious problem, "Bipolar" doesn't sound so convincing: "What do you mean bipolar? You don't look crazy." (Well, excuse me for not gibbering incoherently and eating bugs).
Actually, nobody has ever said anything like that to me; that was the voice in my head. No, not that voice, that voice mostly just sits around making up doggerel poetry (there once was a hickory-smoked ham/that married a tinned can of spam...). So maybe it's not such a big deal to say, "I have bipolar disorder which is why I am presently unable to locate last year's tax return without having a complete nervous breakdown. Ha ha, why yes, bipolar disorder is extremely humorous."
Okay, so I'm not there yet.
The point is that even to myself, the mental disruption, obsessiveness and deadly, bone-deep fatigue of a down-spell feels more like making excuses than like giving myself some slack for having a neurological glitch that I can't just "get over."
So how about this: I'll cut you some slack. You can be bipolar, schizophrenic, depressive, paranoid, autistic, ADD, OCD, or just plain bonkers, and I'll cover your ass, help out with the things you're stressing over or just arrive on your doorstep with a romantic comedy and a quart of chocolate chocolate chip. With chocolate.
And then maybe someday you can do the same for me.