Bipolar Confession

“And with the strength of a thousand men,
Both before you and within,
You came clean.
You did everything but shout it from rooftops for years.
But, alas, that was never enough.
“This is me, in all my unforgiving ‘crazy’ glory.”
And now you are free
to love yourself.
And now you are free
to begin healing.”

The above was written to commend a former professor of art who recently announced that he has suffered from bipolar disorder for years. He let everyone know that he recently hit his “all-time low.” I’ve seen people suffer from this illness up-close and personal, and they have always been the kindest and most sincere souls, despite their aggressive day-to-day battles. I want to honor this man for the strength and courage it took, and will continue to take, on the long and winding road of recovery.

I can’t help but notice that all of the people I have met with this illness have all been great artists. I equate the often erratic behavior they experience to an emotional scale that surpasses what most people feel day to day. The hard and fast emotional roller coaster can take someone to their highest point, immediately followed by their lowest. But I’ve known many other people who never really get to experience either end of that spectrum, because it takes extreme emotional availability that is often unstable and frowned upon in society.

But look at the capacity for love these people have, so often juxtaposed with their prominent self-loathing and painful realizations that they are different from the “norm”. I believe this emotionality doesn’t always need to be their downfall. I believe that successful
recovery can bring people who suffer from this illness to the top once more, in a more even-timed dance with life, because they have seen hell and risen beyond it. Not above it, no, because those times still remain within them always. But with proper care and love, and at times with hospitals and medications, the people who used to suffer uncontrollably are able to love wholeheartedly and teach the world to do the same.

What are you afraid of?

actingSpeaking loudly, not speaking at all,
Repetitive sounds, or listening too hard.
Someone in a waiting room, someone in a class—
What makes an outsider?
The answer is you.

Everyone on this earth is so different.
We have all been taught different “norms”.
We all have different behaviors and reactions.
What holds you back from reaching out to someone? What makes you afraid?

What makes you think that you are so special, so precious, so “normal”?
It’s not you alone that has made you as wonderful as you are,
It was all of the help you received along the way.
It’s the everyday kindness you were gifted since birth.
Who gave you that gift? Who took it away?

Everyone has this strange tendency—protect your own but shun the other.
What makes the distinction in your heart? Fear of the unknown.
What will you say? How will I respond? What do I do if—

Just say hello. Just answer the question. Just smile instead of averting your eyes.
Simply encourage and foster kindness whenever you can.
You lose so much more when you keep it to yourself.
Take a second and consider a stranger as your own flesh and blood.
It’s appreciated.

February 10, 2013