My Dad used to have as saying. “No one’s pain is greater than your own. Your hangnail will always hurt you more than someone else’s broken leg”. (Of course, he also used to say “If you fall down and break your leg, don’t come running to me”. But that’s not germane to these thoughts.) But it’s all relative. Dealing with being bipolar comes with a great deal of pain. Sometimes it’s emotional, other times its mental (which is completely different) or it can even be physical. But my pain is unique to me.
For me, mania causes me a great deal of physical pain. When I get so wired up, moving so fast or completely out of control, my body can actually hurt. It’s not quite as emotional or physical as I’m usually not aware that the behavior is not ‘normal’. But the tension and stress, as well as the movement of leg bouncing or constant swaying back and forth put a tangible drain on my body. The overwhelming energy that makes me feel like I’m going to explode is exhausting. All those demands take their toil and leave behind a very real soreness and pain.
Don’t get me wrong, depression is bad. But it’s more of numbness than a pain. The empathy and lack of caring that happen during my depressions are miserable, but not really painful. Of course there is the pain of believing you’ve let others down, or the strong emotional stress that can smother you. But for me, it’s subtle and manageable.
Then there are the peripheral pains. The fear of loneliness can be a very real source of suffering. Insecurities and the feeling of inadequacy can be very hurtful. Believing that I am a total failure can be excruciating. The perception that nobody cares can cause my very soul to ache. These may not be a direct part of the bipolar, but frequently come as a result.
And another source is the pain of anticipation. When I know a depression is imminent the knowledge of what is coming can be agonizing. Mania sneaks up on me, but I know that sooner or later it’ll come again, and that can torment me. I expect to hurt others with my illness. I expect to fail. I expect to cause trouble, and be in trouble. All of these are hurtful to me.
The greatest pain of all is the awareness of my illness. It hurts to feel so broken. Knowing that I have no control over my behaviors is terrible. I hate the fact that I will have to take all the medicines, and go through therapy for the rest of my life. Whether or not it’s evident to others, I feel like my being so different is obvious, and that really hurts. My awareness may be real, or may just be something imagined but the pain I feel is palpable.
But that’s just me. For others the pain could come from being depressed. The anxiety and panic could be excruciating. Or any one of infinite different reasons could be the source of the extreme discomfort. No one understands how anyone else feels. That is unique to the individual. There’s no way to compare one pain to another. What may seem to be a minor issue to me may be devastating to someone else. There is no level of severity. Pain can be debilitating and consuming, regardless of what is causing it. Even what might be considered the simplest things could be the cause of the greatest agony. I leave my house and go where I please without a second thought. For someone with Agoraphobia however, it may be unimaginably painful. No one’s suffering is better or worse than anothers.
But my Dad was right. My pain will always hurt me more. Just like everyone else.