Bipolar is a set of traps. One is the slippery slope of depressed self loathing, where you recount to yourself all the ways you are a failure, unlovable, and finally an unsolvable mess completely unworth of saving. The other is a speeding upward corkscrew of racing thoughts, social paranoia, rage traps, physical symptoms, and finally a paralyzing force that leaves you immobile staring at a wall or tv. The worst part is that they are codependent. They are wrapped around each other as tightly as the strands of you DNA and they can tap into each other’s lies to perpetuate their hold on your mind.
Anxiety is an asshole. It wants to sabotage you. It wants to make you its slave minute by minute. It wants to trap you in a mental loop of anxious rambling thoughts so all you can do is stare at the wall while your mind churns.
Anxiety will convince you that the worse possible case scenario is happening right now. It tells you to assume the worst about everything that is happening and everyone’s intentions. It wants to make you paranoid. The person you just texted is ignoring you intentionally. Your friends are so uspet by your erratic behavior that they don’t want to talk to you. No one will understand the person behind the disease. Your inability to act “normal” will alienate everyone. There is no way to ever come to terms with the stupid things you’ve done and said while in its grips. There is no way you can ever be sorry enough for people to forgive you. You deserve to replay every mistake you’ve ever made and permantly live in a state of shame for all the nasty things you’ve said in anger when you were actually terrified and couldn’t identify it because anxiety was shouting in your head that it was someone’s intent to hurt you and therefore you should lash out at them.
The anxious mind is not scared of anything in particular but everything at once. A person with clinical anxiety is literally afraid of fear itself and that is a nearly impossible thing to break out of. It paralizes you. All you want is to feel better and you cannot think of how to get there. You can’t get your mind to stop haranguing you for past wrongs or shouting that someone is out to hurt you. Meditation is the most frightening proposition because you can’t calm your mind. You literally cannot shut it up.
Imagine a hive of bees has taken up residence in your upper abdomen. At the same time an invisible hand is squeezing your heart. Your skin feels too small. You are dying to get out of your body. If only you could outrun the feeling. If only you could jump out of your own skin. If only you could get your head to stop screaming at you or stop the tide of uncomfortable images parading past your inner eyes. You feel every single ounce of shame you have ever felt in your life all at once. You must get control you need to get control of yourself. You know you’re outer behavior is about to match your inner madness but you can’t seem to stop it. You can’t get a grip on your emotions. You mouth is no longer your own. You know you about to fuck up, about to fuck up. All you can think is you are about to fuck up everything. Just think how terrible you will feel then. This feeling of dread is nothing compared to the regret of acting strangely or worse angrily. You’re so angry about not being able to get control back that it is going to come out on the nearest person.
You can’t let that happen but you can’t get away. You try to leave the situation but the feeling follows you. You know your next personal interaction is going to be a bad one. Your skin is prickly. You can’t concentrate. You can’t find a solution. You cannot get out.
Anxiety doesn’t want you to know your fears are unfounded. It doesn’t want you to find out that there is a way around this gloomy immediate future that it is laying out for you. If you could find a way out you could break the cycle and it would lose its hold on you. You’re afraid to talk to a doctor about it because you know the drugs used to treat anxiety are addictive and people will look at you strangely when you go to fill your perscriptions, receptionists will treat you badly. Doctors will think you’re just looking for a fix. Remember what happened last time?
Remember that time you embarrassed yourself when you were six years old? Let’s feel that again and every slight you’ve ever been dealt. Your boss is going to fire you. Your husband will hate you. Your sister will stop talking to you. Everyone you love will leave you. Remember that other time when someone rolled their eyes at you? That’s about to happen again. Protect yourself. Strike before they can get you. Run away. Call out sick. Don’t let it happen again but you know it’s going to. You can’t stop it. It’s inevitable. This is you.
Anxiety is a con artist selling you on the idea that a chemical imbalance in your brain is you. You are broken and can’t be fixed and the safest thing for everyone involved is to stay in your house. Want to keep people safe? Don’t interact with anyone. Don’t speak. Don’t act or you might hurt someone. Just sit here and stare at the tv or the wall. Just sit here and think and think and think. There is nothing you can do. Just find a way to numb out enough to face your next breath. Don’t even dream about being able to feel good. Feeling good is for people who aren’t assholes and you are definitely an asshole. Remember what happened last time? Remember? Remember. That is all you’re good for is to play your mistakes over and over and over and over.
Why can’t someone just snap you out of it? Why can’t you just snap out of it? It’s all in your head right? You should be able to control this. You should be able to make it stop. Just calm down ok. Don’t feel bad. Just don’t be an asshole. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t. Freak. Out.
Anxiety is that feeling at the top of the rollercoaster but the roller coaster never drops. There’s no relief. You may ride out and around a couple spirals but then you find yourself stranded at the top again looking down with that sickening dread. At the same time you’re certain someone has stranded you here intentionally so they can laugh while you squirm. You’re ashamed because you can’t move past it. You’re experiencing every moment of embarrassment all at once and your racing mind keeps screaming around the same uncomfortable track.
But you are not your axiety. Every day you survive in spite of it, every moment you carve out as your own, every second you can feel good is a blow against an enemy inside you but it is not you. Remember that. It is not you. It is a medical condition. It might take a few tries but you will find a doctor or nurse who understands that narcotics are not candy and that there are other ways to treat this disease in your brain. You can feel calm. You just need some help. It is out there. Don’t fight this fight alone.
PS. (edit 02/26/16) I was extremely remiss in not including a link to the inspiration for this piece. Here is the blog post from Wil Wheaton on depression. I found it incredibly inspiring as I always do with his contributions to the world.