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I feel a lot of pressure. Pressure to take my meds and stay on them. Pressure to be a good son, brother, and uncle. Pressure to be a man. Pressure to conform and lead a healthy, happy life. It’s tough, but I’ve learned to maintain composure and grace among the people in my life, i.e. the normies, people who are not bipolar or mentally ill.
“Look, he’s bipolar and he’s not a nervous wreck,” I think, as if observing myself from the headspace of those around me. “Check it out, he’s bipolar and he doesn’t drink or do drugs.” “See, he doesn’t cry.”
I used to be rail thin. Skinny jeans and all. Ironically, since getting sober seven years ago, I’ve developed what might be mistaken for a beer gut. It’s not drastic, but I have definitely changed from a small to a medium shirt thanks to my potbelly. At 5’7”, I weigh 174 pounds, which is considered overweight by body-mass-index standards. It was a rude awakening when I recently had to check the box for “a little extra” on the dating site OK Cupid.
I am a writer. I am a blogger. I am a music aficionado and a tennis player. I am a television producer. But I am NOT bipolar. I happen to have the bipolar condition.
Many of us always say our illness doesn’t define us, yet it’s hard not to catch ourselves saying, “I’m bipolar.” In reality, it’s just an ailment — a side dish, if you will. It’s not the entrée or the main event.
Common people do not have a monopoly on feeling hopeless and suicidal. It can happen to anyone, including celebrities.
When a depressed Sinéad O’Connor sequestered herself in a New Jersey motel room in 2015, crying out for help in a 12-minute YouTube video, it was out of desperation. But the reactions from people on the internet were extreme.
One comment on Facebook read:
It was in rehab in 2012 that I decided to carry the flag for the mentally ill. I’d received my diagnosis of bipolar four years earlier and ended up in treatment because I was drinking two six-packs of beer or two bottles of wine — or more — every night. I was also smoking crack with homeless people a couple times a week and, for good measure, snorting heroin on occasion.
I used to be ashamed of my bipolar status. I was ashamed of all of the screwball things I did when I was manic.
That was back in 2008, when I tipped the shoe-shine guy $60 because that’s how much I had in my wallet and it seemed like the nice thing to do. I stopped strangers on the street, asking them what they were listening to on their iPods and talking their ears off about music. I bought a $1,600 designer tailored suit. I thought I was on a reality TV show. And that’s just a drop in the ocean. My addiction saw intense, greater lows, like befriending homeless people.
I still make mixtapes. They may be on CD, but, to me, they will always be mixtapes. Music is my higher power in AA and even though I don’t go to very many meetings anymore, music still plays a pivotal, necessary role in my recovery — for my dual diagnosis of bipolar and addiction.
My recovery is emboldened by music. Every day, I listen intently to music for two hours or more, kind of like a means of meditation. I do nothing else but sit and listen, focusing on the music.
You are dually diagnosed. You have bipolar and addiction. It’s a nightmare. Naturally.
Alcohol makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, especially in the winter, when all you feel like doing is cozying up to the fire and enjoying a glass of wine or a fine Scotch or bourbon. But you’re not drinking anymore — and don’t forget that you feel better as a result. Your medication is working again. And though it may be tough, you must resist the temptation to drink or do drugs. Your mental health is significantly more important.
It’s holiday madness. Everyone around you is getting smashed. You want a drink too. But you can’t have one. Why? Because you are an alcoholic. And you are bipolar. What should you do? I’ve survived five Thanksgivings and four Christmases sober and come out on the other end unscathed. In fact, they were some of the best holidays in memory, mainly because I can remember them because I was sober.