Every Bad-Ass, bipolar or otherwise, needs a crew. These are the folks who guard her back, reach out a hand when she’s about to fall off the rock face, and raise an eyebrow in commiseration when the fire-fight goes south. These are the people who understand The Mission and either commit to it or to supporting the Bad-Ass in her quest. A fierce kind of relationship develops under fire, an intimacy not found in normal life. Emotions run high. Fights ensue. But a warrior trusts these people with her life. She has to.
Casualties occur in every Bad-Ass crew, but more so with us bipolars. I’ve hurt a lot of people close to me with my craziness, and many have hurt me with their fear and misunderstanding. Some days, I think it’s easier to carry on alone. But isolation only creates more problems.
In the book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, author John Cacioppo says that a sense of rejection or isolation disrupts not only abilities, will power and perseverance, but also key cellular processes deep within the human body.
Loneliness leads to higher rises in morning levels of the stress hormone cortisol, altered gene expression in immune cells, poorer immune function, higher blood pressure and an increased level of depression. It is related to difficulty getting a deep sleep and a faster progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important to note that all these effects come from perceived rejection or isolation. Being solitary doesn’t create all the physical and mental results of loneliness. It’s our perception of our aloneness that does it.
To combat my predilection for loneliness, I must use the time between episodes to tend to my relationships, to give back to those who have given so much to me, to reach out, to be an active member of my own crew. My life revolves around my illness. I am the center of my Universe. This is the time I get to look up and out, to remember that not everything is about me.
I need to make specific plans, schedule play dates, talk to my friends on the phone, meet them for coffee. I need to follow up on new relationships instead of letting them flounder. I need to spend time with my family that doesn’t revolve around me needing money. Every healthy relationship requires attention, communication and time. This pause between episodes provides the time. And with a Bad-Ass Training mentality, I’ll do the rest.
I also need to check in with my experts, the folks who’s technical savvy I depend on. I thought I could go several months without seeing my therapist, but I honestly need to check in more often. Michelle is my cheerleader, my biggest fan. She lifts me up and smoothes me out like no-one else can. My spiritual teacher, Melanie, is someone I only contact in emergencies. I know she’s extremely busy, but I need to believe her when she says I can contact her anytime. These two women keep my skills and tools sharp. Call them my gun runners.
People are messy, complicated and unfathomable, but we are social creatures. Building and maintaining relationships is the one, single act that keeps us from dying the minute we’re born. For bipolars, isolation increases the chance and opportunity for suicide, so we really can’t afford to let our relationships slide. As hard as it is, we have to make the effort. The time between episodes provides more clarity, more energy, more breathing space to reach out to others. And with a Bad-Ass attitude, I’m actively pursuing my peeps, shoring up connections I’ve neglected and mending the ones I’ve damaged. The cold, hard truth is this Training Time is a lull in the storm, and I’ll need to gather the troops soon. I want to be sure they hear the Call.