Do you ever feel like you’re living a double life? I don’t let people see the bipolar side of myself and work very hard to project an image of ‘normal’. Not successfully all the time, but for the most part nobody has a clue.
So there it is. During my days I’m a hardworking employee, especially when I’m in a hypo manic state (as I am now). I’m social and fun with my coworkers, and very productive. I have to watch some of the negative traits of an episode and not allow myself to display the frustration and anger that is part of my mania. Mornings I do very well. I take an hour between waking up and getting ready for work preparing myself mentally for the day. I give myself a good talking to: I will NOT get too worked up. I will NOT talk incessantly. I will NOT tell any off color stories. I will NOT get over exuberant when talking to customers. I WILL DO MY JOB! That conversation generally continues on my 45 minute drive to work, and by the time I get to my office I’m in a good frame of mind and ready to start the day. By 10:00 or so, the energy starts building, and I have to make myself stop and do some relaxation exercises and deep breathing. Okay, now I’m calmed down a bit and back in the mode. By mid afternoon though I start losing the awareness of my mood and I start creeping back up. But it takes a lot of energy to suppress all that energy, so the afternoon high doesn’t last long. By the time I leave work I’m physically exhausted, so the highs aren’t noticeable.
That’s my public life.
But this illness can’t stay hidden away all the time. When I’m alone it tends to take over. And because I’ve worked so hard to keep it from being obvious so long, when it does come out it’s with a vengeance. Even though my body is so tired, after I get home I’m back on the high. I’m franticly checking my emails. I’m surfing through the four dating sites I belong to. I’m emailing new people I want to meet. I’m corresponding with others I’ve already connected with. I’m talking on the phone. And I’m texting. All at the same time. This is usually a ‘happy time’ during the cycle, and it’s easy to be entertaining and fun with all the people I’ve become connected to. I’ve never had anyone stop interacting with me however we’ve connected once we’ve started. But it’s not all fun and games either. My thoughts come faster than I can process. I have bizarre ideas. The music in my head get’s overwhelmingly loud. There are times I’m so angry I keep to myself and let the anger take over. My driving gets aggressive and I get so pissed off at the other drivers that get I my way. I have ‘lane anxiety’. If I have an exit coming up, and I’m stuck in the wrong lane my anxiety runs through the roof, and my driving gets even more dangerous. My thoughts race out of control. I completely give into the madness and don’t even try to fight.
That’s my manic life.
There’s another side of life for me too. There’s my dating persona. When I’m actually meeting someone face to face, they see a perfect gentleman. I can be charming, funny, sincere, and just a nice guy. It must be working, because the only reason I don’t have a second date with someone is because I’m not interested. I’ve never been turned down for a follow up. Even if I don’t ask them out again, they keep emailing and calling. They see a normal, nice guy that is great to be around.
That’s my dating life.
But wait, there’s more! A very prominent feature of my manias is hyper sexuality. Seeking out opportunities for sex becomes obsessive. I have to say, I don’t act out on this and keep from the risk taking behavior that would happen if I let it. I’ve learned that discretion is the better part of valor. I purposely keep myself isolated when I’m like this and just indulge in the quest. Fortunately, this hyper sexual drive remains a fantasy. The fear of contracting something or getting hooked up with someone really crazy is stronger than the need for sex.
That’s my sexual life.
Now, none of this is contrived or intentional. Wherever I happen to be at the time is real for that moment. I never try to deceive anyone nor intentionally present myself someone I’m not. What is presented is what it is. These are all aspects of who I am; the underlying disease just keeps them separate from each other and lets things out as they need to be. A big part of my therapy has been how to merge all of my personality features into one, and be able to show the complete picture of who I am. And it’s not like this all the time either. It’s only when I’m in that hypo-manic state that this extreme separation of personality occurs. Maintaining this is emotionally and physically draining and I stay exhausted all the time. There is just no way I could keep this up for long. When I’m depressed it’s a completely different situation. As is when I’m in a full blown manic episode. This multiple life stage is just where I am now.
Finally, there’s the rational time. This is when I can recognize all the things that are going on and take active steps to address them. Thanks to therapy and medication, I’ve been fairly successful with presenting the whole package. This is when I’m able to bring it all together, as it’s been appropriate. Everyone has a work persona; a home persona; and a social persona. The way you behave with a spouse that would certainly be different from how you behave with a friend. Living my life this way is my goal. The more I get my illness under control the easier it is to keep these features together. Maintaining the manic symptoms through medications reduces the number of facets that cause much of the separation. I have insight into myself and understanding of the driving factors. This is when I write.
This is my bipolar life.