Another day, another mental health diagnosis.
Here’s a list of the brands I’ve racked up so far (like many fellow crazies, I feel a perverse sense of pride in these):
- Panic disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder (which isn’t even a THING!)
- Social anxiety disorder
And now, bipolar 2. Which, quite frankly, explains a few things.
It explains why I have a $20,000 loan and nothing to show for it but a fancy coat and a broken cellphone. It explains why my CV reads like a “pick your own adventure”. And it explains why every year I go from an amazing win (no more 17 year olds sleeping on the streets!) to months of paralysing depression.
Which is why i’ve been so excited to discover Lady Dynamite. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (Manfriend: What IS this shit?), but I just love how it captures the chaos of shitness, social awkwardness, hilariousness and sheer absurdity that comes when your brain swings from one pole of crazy-town to the other.
Like Maria’s therapist glibly telling her: “It’s called “BI-polar” for ‘bye bye’ friends”.
I’m not cranking out my tiny violin by saying that – true, some friends have never spoken to me after I’ve “come out”, and I get that. Maybe it’s just my time of life, or maybe talking about my periodic descents into madness makes them uncomfortable. Or maybe I’ve been a dick, hurt their feelings, talked too loud and fast, or my crazy eyes have made them feel awkward. Maybe my going silent and not getting in touch for years on end have made them think I don’t care about them. And honestly ? Fair enough!
One particular scene in Lady Dynamite had me going OH MY GOD YASSSSSSS. In it, Maria has an AMAZING idea to start a family band, that she’s sure is going to take over the world. Her rather sceptical family is like “errrrr, OK…?’. But they decide to humour her, awkwardly playing along to a packed out and rather bemused middle-aged crowd, while Maria maniacally rocks out.
It reminded me of my many (many) AMAZING! WONDERFUL! LIFE CHANGING! schemes that my friends, family and Manfriend have gotten swept along with over the years. Like giving up a pretty trailblazing career as privacy expert for the NZ government to do my PhD, which I just KNEW was going to send ripples through space time. I KNEW I was going to find the cure for what ails everyone, that I was going to be the biggest, baddest, most amazing PhD person in the entire universe.
Yeh, so that didn’t work out.
I made the most incredibly shit questionnaire, then basically did nothing for 2 years and turned into a quivering wreck. I spent a lot of time pacing around the house crying and scratching myself, crazy styles.
So how did Maria’s amazing world changing band work out for her? Like me, she ended up fucking up in front of the entire world. She finished up her performance by looking up into the crowd, slowly getting on her hands and knees, lying face down on the stage for a while, until finally saying in a tiny voice to her mother “I think I need help”.
It was hilarious, and also so very humbling and sad.
Something that my dad said to my years ago that has always stuck with me was that his mental illness keeps him humble.
And that’s something that has always stuck with me. I truly do think that bipolar gives me gifts that most people could only dream of. It gives me ideas that are infectious, it makes me charismatic, it gives me courage.
But after all the fun, joy and soaring successes, it brings me crashing back down to planet earth. It means I have to accept that I live with limits. I have to structure my life so that I have contingency plans in place for if/when I get sick so I don’t jeopardise everything I’ve worked so hard for. I can’t stay out past 8 o’clock, and I can’t party too hard.
But at least there’s Lady Dynamite to rock out with.