Outside the quaint, Italian restaurant my Dad and I were eating at, I watched as the last of the sun’s rays were swallowed whole by the jaws of night. In its place, a gathering of gravity-held gas lit up the sky in the form of stars, dancing joyously around the thin sliver of a moon. Back on Earth, a light show in its own right was waking up to excite the corneas in our eyes. From the rushing headlights of cars on the highway, to the dim lights of houses and flashing business signs, homo sapiens were still wide eyed with awareness. In fact, it would be many hours still before the caffeine wore off, and the drinks wore in – when the world, at least the one that surrounded me then, would rest.
Allowing my body to rejuvenate, however, was a distance from the list of actions that floated past my consciousness. In that moment, with blissful ignorance chattering around me, I just wanted to sink into my food and forget what I had known to be reality. A reality of crippling depression, paranoid psychoses, family turbulence, and failing grades. Anyone who knew me, either at the level of peer or family, knew that I was hurting, and the cliff I was racing down was steepening. When I looked up at the sky that night, peace or liveliness were never experienced. Instead, I could feel as the sickening waters of hopelessness and self-loathing tried to consume me. No, resting was not only far from my mind; but a helpless impossibility.
Thus, I was hoping to just sit and enjoy the restaurant that had been one of my grandmother’s favorites. In some ways, I may have been trying desperately to feel her presence, to eat with her again. She had been my rock, and without her, the foundation below my feet was slippery. That night, however, she was nowhere to be found, and all attempts to numb my pain seemed to be vain. My father chattered on about a multitude of topics; but I only heard a few, his voice a distant howl. Everything seemed to dissociatively spin around me, my mind both there and, yet, also somewhere farther away. Even the food tasted different, rich flavoring replaced by nausea-inducing spices. Tears soaked my eyes; but I remained stoic, a ghost chained to a lifeless shell. I felt, and in a way, was, already dead.
Then, as if an electric shock burning through my nerves, I heard him say it.
“You’re turning into a screw up.”
My eyes widened with shock, and I looked up to face the source of the sound. What I found staring back at me, calm and laughing at the words that had escaped his mouth, was my father. Emotions that had been covered and tied down at the bottom of my heart raced toward my tongue, colliding and clogging up the tunnels I required for breathing. The air verbally assaulted out of my lungs, I sat, staring, with a mouth slit open by the blade of what was said. Yet, no words would come out, and truly, no words could be found. Searing with pain and embarrassment, I mechanically returned the smile, and laughed along with him. Inside, I was strung tightly with hurt and confusion. Looking in the mirror later that night, I saw failure; but that failure was me.
Insomnia an ugly beast that I knew well, I pondered and analyzed what was said more times than I cared to count. I thought about what was said; I thought about how I responded; I thought about the state of my life; and, well, you could say I thought quite a lot during those hours. Over the past few years, everyone around me had watched as I disintegrated. While never the happy or emotionally stable girl, it now seemed I had lost all sense of functioning and self-care. If they suspected there was a chemical imbalance stealing away my life, it was never said. What was said, however, was that I was lazy, defiant, spiteful, and insubordinate. Meltdowns were considered manipulation, not completing tests a sign of defiance, and when it came to homework – well, I was a lazy adolescent. My Mom and I fought constantly, and when I watched as she struggled with her own psychological shadows, I couldn’t help but realize I was making it that much worse. Things had gotten so bad, at one point, that the principal even declared they had given up me. No matter how much my mother assured it wasn’t true, I certainly felt like quite the failure.
Thinking all of this over, a raging sense of frustration swept over me. All my life, I just wanted to please people, be a good student, and make my parents happy. I wanted to make them proud. Looking back now, however, the only thing I could see were patterns of failing grades, disappointed teachers, alienation, rage, and chastisement. From the outside, I was a typical case of defiance and apathy, and it is hard for me to blame people for drawing that conclusion. More than anything, during those restless nights, I wished I could show people that I really did want to succeed, and that, though it didn’t seem that way, I tried. I really did try.
Eventually, I would come to be diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder I, and later, Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type I. Medicines would be dispensed, hospitalizations acquired, outpatient programs tried, and therapy administered before I felt the desire to live – quite possibly, for the first time since I was three. Yet, I still wasn’t completely stable, and that came with a price. While I was now stable enough to clearly see the damage done, I still wasn’t to a place where I could bring myself to the level I wanted, to the level people expected of me now. Time and time again, that frustration would return with vengeance, and I would helplessly watch as I seemed to disappoint everyone all over again.
As our older readers may have realized, I have been absent for some time. Without warning or notice, I stopped communicating, and failed to fulfill my responsibility. I even missed out on doing a post that meant quite a lot to me. The excuses are predictable and do not compensate. There were medical issues, medication changes, stability issues, the beginning of school, and some terrible moments within the family. While I have been told by countless people to not sear myself with guilt, it is there. Ask A Bipolar is something I love; something I helped create. I watched as it grew at rapid speeds.. I made friends. Yet, the disorder this very site is centered around got in the way, and just as with my parents and teachers, I watched helplessly as I disappointed. As I failed.
Perhaps fittingly, my first post back is one of a question. A question about a complication that has haunted me. In fact, it is what drove me to author this post. So today, it is my turn to ask you a question. If you decide to despond, my only request is that you do so honestly. Here, we do not judge; here, we are imperfect; here, we are all just trying to survive.
“Have you ever felt as if you couldn’t stop disappointing or failing others, no matter how much you wanted to please people and succeed? Did anything help prove you wrong? If you are a parent, family, or friend, have you seen this? Does it frustrate you? How do you react?”