I have been chasing a hint of a cure for bipolar for many years. Alternative, and mainstream, remedies, meds, supplements, lifestyle choices, the power of positive thinking, etc. Almost every single effort I have made has in some way affected my bipolar symptoms, both good and bad. But it literally just dawned on me this week that all of the hard work I have put in, extreme treatments, and strict self-care regimens I have built up around me — none of them have changed the disease itself, and there is no cure.
I have dozens of journals I have kept over the past 20 years. I stopped writing in them years ago because honestly, it bored me to death to write about all the horrible ups and downs in my life. It was almost torture, like playing a broken record over and over again. So I stopped. It didn’t serve a purpose any longer. But, for some reason, just recently, I thought I would try again. As if something different would come from it. Something therapeutic. Progress or peace.
So I picked up an old journal that still had a ton of pages left in it and began to write. I wrote for about a page and a half. Then paused. Read it over. I couldn’t believe it. After all of these years of trying to transcend my disease through unceasing attempts — I feel absolutely, exactly, unbelievably: the same. My raw core of how I truly feel had not altered in almost 20 years. Nothing had changed but the circumstances around me. My life has appeared to improve as a result of my tenacious dedication to finding a better way to live. But my disease has not changed.
I flipped back in this journal that had entries from up to 10 years ago, then unboxed journals from up to 15 years back. I found the same exact, I mean verbatim, sentences over and over across every page, all unknowingly in line with one another. All of the things going on in life at different times was so extremely varied. But the feelings — the feelings were exactly the same! Here are some of those eerily repetitive conversations in my head I had recorded over this span of time:
“I wonder if anybody feels this way; I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. Being alone with my thoughts drives me crazy. I have to stay busy and distracted nonstop. If I’m alone, all I want to do is die. I’m so tired. I don’t want to think. I just want to sleep. I wish I could sleep forever and be happy. I just want to feel good. Be happy. What is that like? Do people actually feel good and happy?”
“I never wake up and say, ‘wow! I feel great!’”
“I am always scared. Scared to go to sleep because the night passes so fast when I’m asleep and then there is morning and I’m always scared of the next day — whether or not I will feel good, energetic, or tired or sad or depressed or okay enough to motivate myself around. I’m always scared that I am going to feel exactly the same — because I always do.”
“It’s not like I don’t try to feel better. I’ve felt like this as long as I can remember. But I still get up every morning and do what I have to do and go where I have to go and try to stay active and be productive. I try to keep moving and not give into this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.”
“This ‘sick’ feeling — I can’t stand. Tell me other people actually visualize crashing their heads into a wall or stabbing themselves to relieve the mental and emotional pain — like seriously contemplate these things everyday as if they were viable options. Do they? I don’t know. I do. The pain is so unbearable in my head that I just want it to stop so bad.”
“My life is good! It’s the way I feel that is bad. And I have no control over how I feel. I’m terrified to go to sleep at night because I know the next day will be just as bad and I know when I lay down at night all the bad thoughts enter my head and I get scared. How do I feel right now? I don’t want to talk to anybody, or see anybody. I dread anybody trying to contact me. I want to sleep for a long time. However long it takes to feel better. I don’t want tomorrow to come unless it will all be over, the pain. But I know it’s coming. Tomorrow. And then I have to feel just like this all over again and go through the motions.”
What does this all mean? These reoccurring journal notes and thoughts that I found spanned across 20 years, two marriages, two divorces, one kid, living as two different genders, from a raging addict to a grateful one, three states, two countries, and countless jobs. In the end, my bipolar has not gotten better. Rather, it has been an illusion that is has. But in reality, bipolar does not get better. We just get better at living with it. That’s the silver lining. As the title by Confucious infers, no matter where we go, there we are; no matter where I go, or what I do, or who I “am”, I have bipolar disorder. All my hard work, and treatments, and meds, and sheer unstoppable will have given me tools to manage my moods and made it “easier” for me to live with myself. I don’t think it is giving in to say I no longer want to chase a cure for bipolar. I feel empowered by the realization that I cannot. But what I CAN do is completely embrace all of these constant, inner thoughts and continue to find ways to sooth them and actions and lifestyles that continue to pick away at all of the negativity that rushes in from this irrational disease; knowing that I cannot cure my bipolar, but that I can subdue its overwhelming effects — and that’s something.