Some years ago I saw the movie "28 Days" about a woman struggling with addiction. At the time, I was particularly struck by the rehab counselor's advice to those who had completed the program and were going back to their "normal" lives-- he suggested that before any of them get wrapped up in a relationship with another person, they purchase a houseplant and keep it alive for one year.
I have struggled with using alcohol and drugs to "self-medicate" and I have also been "mis-medicated" by doctors. But, the main character's story in the movie is not mine .....
My illness is chronic-- there is no cure. My drug ab/use has very often been an attempt to relieve the anguish of the symptoms. But there is no 28-day rehab for Bipolar II and the only thing that will stop this illness is death, which I believe in my case will most likely come - as is very often the case Bipolar II sufferers - as a direct result of the illness. Many who are not educated would call me a doomsayer for such a prediction. I say I know the fucking statistics.
For those who consider such a forecast of one's future to be melodramatic or pessimistic: educate yourself, please! Read Virginia Woolf's suicide note. Know that she was a brilliantly talented individual, one of the fortunate few who realized her calling in life and became incredibly prolific and successful in her life's passion and work. She was loved deeply by those whom she sought to spare having to deal with her madness-- that horribly debilitating symptom of an illness that, treatment notwithstanding, cannot be stopped. She had every reason to live. She also had reason to end her life, knowing that as long as she lived, the disease would continue to manifest in the form of unbearable pain, which is the part of this illness that that only Bipolar sufferers fully understand. (Nearly everyone else is a skeptic, believing that on some level our symptoms are either self-inflicted, exaggerated, or somehow imagined-- as if!!) If you, dear reader, have been under any such impression up until this point, know that you have believed a ridiculous falsehood, which is at the root of the stigma and shame of having a mental illness. Do you honestly believe that the upwards of 6 million people in this country who have been diagnosed as being Bipolar would actually choose to suffer mental anguish that is just as
agonizing as any pain that results from physical disease or injury? Or that - for some bizarre unknown reason - we are just making this shit up?? What reason could I possibly have for pretending to have a defect of which I am completely ashamed and which I would gladly rid myself of at whatever cost there might be to do so? Truly, these are ridiculous claims-- period! End. Of. Story.
As for Virginia, at some point when she felt the familiar symptoms coming on, she could not bear the thought of putting herself or her loved ones through the pain of enduring yet another bout of madness. And yesterday, yet another wonderfully talented individual, Robin Williams, also apparently came to the conclusion that the pain was simply insurmountable and death was the only way to end the pain. Truly, although Bipolar symptoms can be managed to some extent, the illness itself is terminal.
This being the case, I have often reflected back on my life with regret for having formed relationships with anyone beyond those I was born into. Why would anyone with such a defect attach themselves to another person?--knowing how this illness wreaks havoc on a person with some regularity and consequently chips away steadily at our relationships and hurts deeply the people trying to maintain them.
However, nobody told me not to form relationships with other people until I could keep a houseplant alive for a year-- nobody ever made any such suggestion. Not once did any of my mental health providers suggest that in the same way my illness was detrimental to me, so it was bound to be a force for destruction in my close relationships and a cause for despair in the lives of anyone who dared try to love me.
I'd like to think that had I been given such a warning, I could have perhaps been selfless enough to avoid forming attachments like the plague. Alas, no such foresight was granted to me. That being the case, I went about my business like a "normal" human being-- getting married, having children, and so on.
For this - to those with whom I chose to bind my life - I am sorry. I apologize for not coming to the realization sooner that my causing you pain is inevitable, simply by being a part of your life or bringing you into my world.
It's a sad fact: I never could keep a damn houseplant alive for more than a few months .....