Let us begin our journey with some context. In days, weeks, months and years to come, we will traverse the mental health landscape through my story and experiences. When I was first diagnosed, I scoured the internet to understand how I should or should not be feeling, thinking and managing myself. I found little that was told in the way I will be telling my story, blow by blow as it unfurled, and how it affected my mind and life (and hopefully hearing some of yours). I hope someone will identify with my situation and just be a little less alone in their journey. I have been most fortunate to have had the unequivocal support of my wife, friends and family, but there is always that element that only each of us must deal with internally.
Hi, hello, it's me..and me! Let us start by clarifying a few things (disclaimer):
I am not a medical professional, views are my own based on personal experience and should in no way be considered medical advice.
I will be making jokes and light of my own mental health issues at times, again, based on experience and my obscure outlook on life. The way I figure, these things are going to happen anyway, so might as well feel as good as I can doing it. If you find this sort of thing offensive, I recommend you rather not partake.
There is a difference between bipolar mood disorder (BMD or 'bipolar'), bipolar personality disorder (BPD) and Schizophrenia. I have bipolar mood disorder, specifically BP II, which we will dig into further later.
At times, these posts will be a complete mess, and seemingly all over the place. This is how I experience the world sometimes, and the point is to demonstrate what that looks like.
Definition: 'Oculus'; a round or eye-like opening or design. A circular window. The central boss of a volute. Source: https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
Why this image? I shot this in the KZN Midlands a few weeks back. It is essentially an old extruded section, assumedly from a railway given that I was outside of 'Lion's River Station,' and that has been twisted into a spiral of sorts.
I saw it as a representation of what can be one's view of the world, and was particular about how I edited the photo. "Sometimes the world is grey, and we choose to focus on the colour, but that does not make the grey go away." - Me.
What this means is that I don't think that it is likely that one can block out the other side of mania/depression whilst in the opposing state. We must learn to live with it, but try to push it to our peripheral vision. I know, much easier said than done, I speak from a place of privilege today, not currently in a low (depressive) phase.
What's in a name?
The name of my blog is 'Becoming Bipolar: Nuclear Fission 101.' For those who are unsure, nuclear fission is the process of splitting an atom, and in doing so a tremendous amount of energy is released. Think Hiroshima 🤯 or Nagasaki scale explosion.
Up until the year 33 A.B. (After Birth - mine), I had no idea what was going on in my head, or that anything was going on at all. I thought that I was just a regular dude with regular challenges and regular feelings that sometimes were not great, and sometimes were amazing, but that was just how life works. Grit my teeth and carry on, I would think. I am still just a regular guy, but apparently, my brain works differently from the 'norm.'
Let us digress for a moment to talk about the 'norm,' 'normal' or 'neurotypical.' In my academic research, I came across interesting ways of looking at this. The excerpt below is from my PhD research proposal:
"As far as the field of psychology is concerned, the area of study is divided into four distinct ‘waves’: The first wave – Freudian or psychoanalytic, and the second wave (cognitive-behavioural psychology) were based wholly on science, experimentation, and observation of control groups. The overarching theme in these two waves or forces of psychology was that of understanding the attributes that were ‘wrong’ with the human mind as compared to that defined as neurotypical to provide a cure to the ‘abnormality, disorder or illness.’ In more recent years the term ‘neurodivergent’ as defined by (Cleveland Clinic, 2022) is: “Neurodivergent is a nonmedical term that describes people whose brain develops or works differently for some reason. This means the person has different strengths and struggles from people whose brains develop or work more typically. While some people who are neurodivergent have medical conditions, it also happens to people where a medical condition or diagnosis hasn’t been identified.” This definition is supported by numerous sources including Oxford Languages and Stanford Medicine."
I take from this, and from having asked my psychiatrist in the early days, that bipolar diagnoses much like other mental health diagnoses, cannot be scientifically (physically) quantified, and is determined purely on the observations and expert opinion of a suitably trained and qualified professional, ie. qualitatively after in-depth interrogation.
So I ask, "What is this NORMAL of which we speak?" I don't see how there is a clearly defined baseline apart from the average (which is what a norm is in statistics) observed human behaviour at a time. Given the rate at which changes in society happen these days, can yesterday's definition of 'normal' possibly still be relevant today? The Bottom line is that there is no 'normal' to me. There is no right and no wrong. Only infinitesimal positions of the spectrum.
Back to the topic at hand (and as you will learn, this is precisely how my mind works. Start one thing then in the middle, divert to something else, and something else...and eventually return to the original thing, or sometimes not at all for days or weeks). I chose the name because, despite the fact that the bipolar attributes of my personality were always underlying, they were explicitly triggered by specific events that led to an official diagnosis. As with many people I went through the preceding motions. From General Anxiety Disorder to adult ADHD to finally bipolar. Look, the last two are very similar and to this day I think I have some comorbidity in those two, and the anxiety is always back there too, but the dominant issue is bipolar in my case.
Oh yes...the title of my blog...yes, okay, so as much as one does not 'become bipolar' I treat that breaking point and subsequent diagnosis as the time at which I 'became bipolar.' At this time it was like splitting an atom, not only was I now two people (jokes) but everything from my mind to my family life, to my work life was blown out of the water. Kaboom! Look, it has not been all bad. It has helped me identify what goes on in my brain, why and what it leads to in the physical world. Having this awareness allows me to start working on catching the mood swings (ooh here is a phrase that is so badly interpreted by society). Let's call a spade a, a spade here, that is literally what bipolar is. A constant swing from low (depressed state) to high (manic state), with less severe levels of each in BP II people like me (hypomania and milder depression).
It has been a tough road, these past few months, but my partner and support system has been by my side all the way. Leeanne, thank you! I love you, and despite how hard some of the things we have worked through have been, thank you for never giving up on me. I feel our relationship is stronger than ever.
In weeks to come, I will delve deeper into the details of some of the things I mentioned today. The journey is (life) long, and we will walk it together.
Please feel free to reach out via any of my social platforms, or through my other website www.bipolaroidphoto.com.
Cleveland Clinic. (2022). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23154-neurodivergent, accessed 15 October 2022