Like a massive storm, a manic episode can be beautiful and terrifying. Unless you have been through it it is hard to explain.
As I mentioned last week, my Dad asked me to share his writing. I chose to sit on it for a week to make sure that he wanted it shared and that I was comfortable doing so. I think it's a moving insight into what it can be like to struggle with manic depression.
Here are his words:
For all my life I have lived in darkness and I feel that this has to do with an overblown ego. I was once told that depression is rage turned inward. This rage coupled with ego has placed me in a hell on earth scenario. I hope that by focusing on the light I will be able to reclaim the light and grace of the Lord.
I feel blessed that this revelation struck me just last night. My previous focus had been on a negative diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. The identity I adopted was one of self-pity and darkness. So much dwelled in the darkness that I couldn’t see the light in others. As I dealt with others the intense negativity and hate that were channeled through others ended up repelling them and this was painfully boomeranged back my way, causing my own pain to be compounded, driving me deeper into the infinite dark.
I had attacked others with my pain. Some shot pain back my way. Other fled having no dialogue which is the first step in healing. So most relationships I am involved in are locked in pain and anger. While writing this today I am all alone in the darkest of dark. I pray that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God will relight my inner candle. The way the lord said let there be light. And through that act my light will begin to grow through works in order to illuminate my new world. For myself and my family.
It's heartbreaking for me to read this and see his suffering. But at the same time it's all very true. I would love to say that my relationship with my dad was not defined by pain and anger, but anyone who has dealt with a mentally-ill loved one knows how painful and infuriating the process can be.
Last year when my Dad was in the hospital, I told myself that no matter how much I was hurting, he was hurting more. It's so easy to ask why - why can't you get up; why can't you stay in treatment; why isn't my love enough. Seeing the other side may not make it easier to understand, but it does make it easier to empathize.
Bright and early this Monday morning my phone rang. I saw with shock that it was my dad, awake and calling before 7 a.m. Clearly something was wrong.
"Could you stop by on the way to work?" he asked, sounding cheery. I sighed. I was already squeezing in a workout and still hoping to get to work early.
"Sure," I said, reverting to the little girl who doesn't want to say no. "I'll come by when I'm done working out."
Five minutes later the phone rang - Dad again.
"Can you come over? And can I talk to your mother? Oh, you're working out?" The rapid-fire, repeating questions were the second sign that something was amiss.
An hour later I walked in and found my Dad sitting at his table furiously writing. "Hi," I said. "I've had an epiphany!" he replied.
My heart sank - he was textbook manic. His hands and voice were shaking and he was overjoyed to tell me about the religious awakening he had had overnight. The saddest thing about a manic episode is that the person having it feels fantastic. With a spark in his eyes, my dad told me how he felt the best that he had felt in five years.
Luckily, by this point the family has a pretty good system in place: run symptoms by someone else to confirm your suspicions; gently bring up a trip to the ER; wrack your brain about who you may know in the mental health fields; pray.
When your loved one is constantly in and out of crisis care it is exhausting. So many emotions overwhelm you: rage and bewilderment as you ask "Why couldn't you just stay on the meds?"; hope as you think "Maybe this is the time"; and contentment when you realize that - maybe just for today - your loved one is doing the right thing and seeking help.
Now I've tagged in another relative and Dad is in the ER, waiting to be evaluated. He called me just before walking into the hospital to reiterate what he had said this morning - he wants to share the journey. He asked me to write about my feelings and to share his writings. Part of that is the mania speaking, but part is a man speaking about something he believes is important, no matter what his mental state. So, I'll do it.
And in the meantime I'll ask a favor: if you can spare a prayer, join me in hoping that maybe - just maybe - this time will be different.
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