I’m just a normal, average guy. I go to work, I have a social life, I pay bills, and keep my yard and house up, My coworkers might notice that some days I’m a little exuberant, and others I might be a little more quiet, but everybody has days like that, right? For the most part, I’m successful at my job and people seem to like me. Yes, I’m just like everybody else.
Or so it appears.
But underneath that façade of normalcy is a raging crazy trying to get out. A lifetime of dealing with a severe mental illness has taught me how to cover up all but the most extreme moods. And even when I do cross that threshold, I find ways to remove myself from view without giving clues as to what’s really going on. Last fall, when I was hospitalized for my overdose I of course missed work during that time. But I had an excuse that was close enough to the truth that I could get away with it without letting on I was locked up in an institution. The story for public consumption was that I had a bad reaction to a smoking cessation drug. There has been just enough bad press about the drug to make it believable. And overdosing on a drug is close to that, right? I just substituted a non-mood altering drug and called it a bad reaction. I got sympathy that I would not have gotten had they known the truth.
There are day to day secrets that help with the public perception. No one can see what’s actually going on in my head, and I carefully keep that tucked away. The repetitive thoughts of OCD run in the back of my head, and I’m able to communicate without anyone truly knowing. Likewise with the music blaring in my head; nobody hears it but me. It gets very crowded in my brain, but so far at least, only the acceptable actually makes it out.
Regardless of the mood my inner thoughts are dark and deep. No, I’m not talking about mayhem and destruction. And certainly not about personal harm to anyone. The darkness I feel is personal. It may be self harm; even when I’m not suicidal (Which thankfully is rare), I can dwell on thoughts of behaviors that can be very self destructive. I think that deep down my brain realizes that I’m broken, presents ideas that punish me and cause me pain.
If I’m honest about it, the way I treat relationships is both crazy and harmful. For example, currently I’m ‘wooing’ three different women. I haven’t made any commitments or anything, and I’m not pretending to be madly in love with any of them. But just the way I treat each one separately can give them the impression that they are my special lady. I don’t intend for it to be harmful; it’s just when I’m with someone they are special to me. Then I get with another one, and they become special to me too. I have the ability to make a woman feel good about herself. And truthfully, it really is sincere. If one is struggling with self esteem issues, I try to reassure them that they are attractive and worthy. There is no manipulative motive. I really want to help them feel better about themselves. The problem with that however is that while it’s sincere, it’s not exclusive. And they don’t have a clue that I’m doing the same for others. And that’s crazy. I spend a lot of effort juggling between each one to keep them from knowing what I’m really doing.
Then there are the alone times.
I’m not ready to confess everything that goes on when I’m by myself, but suffice it to say that it’s far from normal. I spend a lot of time contemplating casual sexual encounters with strangers. I fantasize about things that would make you blush. My mind can run through the crazy thoughts unfettered. It’s really difficult to explain everything that goes on behind my closed doors, but trust me; it’s not normal by any means. And without admitting too much about any one thing, it’s not always just thoughts and fantasizes. Sometimes there’s acting out. Conscious thoughts become unconscious, and I find myself doing things that normally I would never even consider. There are a lot of mornings I wake up with ‘what was I thinking?” And that’s the problem; I wasn’t thinking. When there’s no one around to actually witness my insanity my inhibitions disappear.
But then again, it’s not always like that. There really are times when the acceptable behaviors are predominating in my life. Being bipolar is about swinging between extremes. And when not at the fringe of my moods I do have a more mainstream life. For the most part anyway.
I haven’t shared much of this with my therapist. Lately, our sessions have been more focused on the external part of my life. We talk about dealing with relationships, past experiences that are influencing me, skills for with dealing with my illness and developing the outward persona that everybody else sees. But I haven’t admitted to the hidden craziness.
Not until yesterday.
It’s very stupid to be in therapy just to propagate the public veneer. I think I’ve got that down, and it’s not helping me get better to ignore it. So I breached the wall in my last session and admitted that there was more hidden away that we hadn’t discussed. No surprise, she already knew. She was just waiting for me to be ready to delve into the abyss. I could actually admit nothing; but I acknowledged that there was something. And now that it’s on the table, we can begin to actually address the root causes and work on growing the normal side and getting rid of the crazy. Oh I know; it’ll never really go away. That’s just the nature of the disease. But medications and therapy can and will get it under control. As she has said many times; the goal is to have the inside match the outside. That’s when you truly become healthy.
I sometimes think my life is like a functional alcoholic. My secrets and outrageous actions are private and hidden. But I still manage to do what’s expected to take care of things and earn my living. I wish I were brave enough to detail all the bizarre and mad thinking and actions that I keep away from other eyes, but that’s just too much to disclose. Suffice it to say that the illness still has a great deal of control over me, in spite of what the world sees.
Confession is the first step to healing. I have admitted nothing specific. But I’ve admitted that there is more going on than meets the eye. And with that confession, the door is open to treatment. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me. Facing these demons is daunting and embarrassing. I feel both dishonest (which I am) and like a failure (which I have been). And I’m scared that I can’t get past the impulses and lack of self control to conquer them. I’m terrified that under it all, I don’t want to. But I have to; before it’s too late. Unchecked, this illness is going to kill me, and take down many others in the process. I cannot allow that to happen for all concerned.
My hope is that even though I might be crazy, I’m not stupid.