Lately, my mind has been floundering a bit. My psychiatrists told me that this is a common occurrence for those with bipolar disorder, to experience anxiety and discomfort during the spring and fall. Those “transitional seasons,” if you will.
And while knowing this helps me realize that “this too shall pass,” it never gets any easier. Always, the panic introduces itself to me in a way it never has before. I sometimes fear, “I have gotten this far, but this is it. I’ve reached the end. I am now approaching the beginning of the end.”
Of course, this is my worst nightmare. I am already grateful beyond anything, that I finally came through that tunnel of insanity. A tunnel with no light, thousands of miles long, buried deep underground, and more akin to a maze. I’d go down a path, feeling the walls, hopeful that the upward incline implied that I was getting closer. And then I’d fall through a hole, back to square one. Or maybe a year of tunneling led to a dead end, and I’d have to go back where I came from.
It gets to a certain point also, when you forget you’re in a tunnel. After years and years of never seeing light, you start to forget that it exists. You give up. You’ll maybe find a nice patch of dirt to sit on, making yourself comfortable, fall asleep…
I digress. With this anecdote, I strive to convey the impossibility of mental illness. Typically, we problem-solve and move forward by using our minds to deduce answers and move forward in life. But mental illness serves to attack a person’s mind. And so, a person’s ability to rationalize and calculate is impaired.
Of course, people find solace in many ways. There are various coping mechanisms that circumvent the need for logic. Options abound. There is deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, the adoption of a religion or spiritual practice, as well as more clinical therapeutic solutions such as CBT or DBT… It’s important for a person to figure and explore to see what works for himself.
One can even find healing and solace via the pursuit of hobbies. My personal venture into writing have proved incredibly therapeutic for me. I have a mind that is constantly filled with words, so to get them out provides me with an outlet to channel this. It used to be that I had not a hobby like this, and so my brain was “backed up,” and always in a state of hypothetical panic.
And of course, there is medication. Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it is a life saver. I used to feel ashamed that I needed it, because so many people told me that it was a bad thing to be on them. That I could heal myself “naturally” by eating vegan or whatnot. I’ve tried it for myself, and it doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong… Iwork out several times a week, and eat mostly organic now… But that only enhances my wellness. It is not enough to cure me.
I just wish the seasonal panic attacks would go away. You would think that I could simply talk myself out of them. “This happens with the changing of seasons. You’ll be alright.” Only it’s not so easy. I’ll tell you why:
No two panic attacks are alike. At least for me.
Sure, I had my panic attacks last fall, as the cold made its entrance. Along with my anxieties, I felt physical discomforts in my body. Perhaps a pang in one specific part of my head, or maybe my brain feels like it’s tilting on a certain angle. A lot of times, the thoughts themselves are repetitive and the same… I’m Beethoven, I’m the Antichrist… But the event that triggers the thought is always different.
That is why it always feels like each panic attack will be my final, permanent descent into insanity. A panic attack always serves to poke me at a specific angle where I am defenseless. And once I get stronger, panic finds another way to knock me down.
The only thing at this point, that gets me through, is my power of reason. FINALLY, I am able to access it. My medications work, I have good people around me, and I have hobbies. As I said above.
These days, I take pride in this curse. Although my illness causes my brain to act like it is a personality that wants to destroy me, I will not be deterred. I will not be beaten. Instead, I consider this to be a journey, or a quest. An adventure, filled with many challenges. And as I complete them, I grow stronger and more experienced.
Sounds like a video game.
It is important though. We need to experience adversity, in order to have opportunities to apply ourselves and learn lessons from life. The reward? We develop in character.
Whether we realize it or not, we all desire drama in our lives. And in reaction to such, we want to feel heroic and important. A lot of people vicariously live adventurous lives by watching TV, and they experience thrills by emphasizing with protagonists. Or whatever you want to call it.
I think others create adventure in their lives via political advocacy. They see injustices, and then get loud and vocal about it. I applaud people for standing up for what they believe in, but I think sometimes, these people exaggerate and take themselves too seriously.
As I write this, I actually am starting to feel better. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m very glad I can see it.