It’s hard not to fling drama all over it, gussy the day up with adjectives and expletives, but simple serves. Bad. It was a bad day.
I felt the need to email my friends and family to ask for their loving thoughts and prayers. I don’t do this as a rule. I can usually pull out my tools, distract my mind from losing itself in the sludge. Sometimes I make a call. Sometimes I meet a friend. But, yesterday I needed the Full Monty.
I noticed that two questions kept coming up in the responses from my loved ones:
- What caused this episode?
- How can I help?
I know these questions come from love, from seeing someone they love in pain and wanting to make it better. Nothing hurts more than watching someone dear to us suffer. We want to fix it.
But, I can’t answer these questions. What causes bipolar episodes? Doctors don’t know. Therapists don’t know. People who have bipolar disorder don’t know. There are theories that go in and out of fashion. New research starts out as promising, then fizzles. Some of us can identify triggers that may, at times, nudge the cycle in one direction or another. But, those are inconsistent and not always in evidence at the bipolar crime scene. What caused this latest episode, and why is it cycling up and down? My best answer is “it’s the nature of the illness.”
A variation on this theme is the question “How can I help?” I know I feel better if I have some concrete way to assist a person in trouble. I feel like I’ve eased their suffering, made the situation better, done my part to make a positive change. Unfortunately, the only way I’ve discovered to alter an episode once it starts is to create a shock of some kind. I don’t think the folks asking this question want to hear, “Slap me” or “Give me a crisis I have to deal with.” Even then, a shock doesn’t always work. So, I’m not ready to stand in line to get slugged.
I’m not shy about asking for what I need. That’s why I emailed everyone yesterday. I needed the positive energy and loving words they sent back. I gave them a way to help me. But, generally, I have no idea how anyone can help, because nothing helps. There’s no easing the symptoms, just managing and “holding on” until the cycle passes.
It’s hard to explain to folks how stressful these two little questions can be. These are questions without answers, but people want answers. They want direction. They want to be part of the solution. They can’t tolerate the idea that bipolar disorder is this quixotic and unpredictable, that there’s not something I should be doing/ingesting/avoiding to snap out of it, that there really is no cure. I understand. I do.
So, I’m going to give folks a couple of things they can always do to help me. I hope this little list will bring some relief to the people I love and who love me. I appreciate everything you do for me. I love you.
- Send Money. (I’m poor. Money always helps.)
- Take me out for a Meal. (Healthy food + Human contact.)
- Remind me why you Like Me (The twisted thoughts make me forget.)
- Take me to a Movie. (Distraction + Human contact without the pressure of conversation)
- Send Loving Thoughts and Prayers (This helps more than you know.)