To My Brother, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder I: You are much more than you could even imagine.
My brother was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I when he was 18 years old. My mother was immediately in denial. “There is no way he has Bipolar Disorder,” she would whisper in my 15 year old ears. “He is just depressed about what is going on with Dad.” He was “just” depressed in my mother’s eyes for a long period of time. She couldn’t bear thinking that he had an illness that she couldn’t help with.
My father was positively the strongest one, both mentally and physically, in our family. He would do overtime at work and still show up to my brother’s baseball games with gleaming eyes, a 5 o’clock shadow and a smile from ear to ear. My father was my brother’s hero. Sickness after sickness, my father’s mental and physical state weakened right in front of my family’s eyes. My father lost his battle March 2017, with each of our hands in his. My brother had many breakdowns throughout his life, but I would have to say the ones he experienced after my father’s death were the worst. Therapy sessions increased almost immediately, and the manic episodes seemed to be more frequent. There were no words that could make it better, and there was nothing that could be done to bring clarity to his clouded mind.
I could find a reason everyday to run to the closest bathroom and cry my eyes out. I’ve done it frequently, and there are some days that I just can’t get it together. There are some days that I feel like I am going around in circles over and over again, and there is no purpose to my existence. But I have realized that this is what makes me human and alive. Even though I have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t days that I have very poor mental health. Everyone has an Achilles heel. Everyone has something that makes them breakdown in ways outside of the norm. Society has implemented the idea into our brains that there’s something called “the standard deviation,” and if you don’t lie within the ranges of what is considered normal, you are an outlier. From BMIs, to mental states, to intelligence, there is an emphasis on trying to make humans as close to the social norm as possible. If you are the outlier you get labeled with a diagnosis, and can experience stigmatizations and gruesome judgments. It is just the way that this absurd world works.
After years and years of my brother seeking mental help, I had an epiphany on what to say that may (or may not) clear at least some of the clouds that suffocate his mind...
You are not defined by your mental illness, brother. You do not owe anyone an explanation for why you impulsively said something or did something. You are not Bipolar Disorder I, you are human. You are so very human, that you wouldn’t even believe. The best you can do in any situation where you may have said or done something to upset another, is apologize. However, you should never apologize for your disorder, or the feelings that you feel. There are days that you will feel more down in the dumps than others and that is okay! It is 100%, no doubt in my mind, okay to NOT be okay sometimes. You will get so deep in your own head that you will feel that it is all too much for you. You will try smoking and drinking, and realize that some days it helps with the demons, and some days it makes them scream louder in your head. You will try exercising at the gym, yoga or meditation and you will find how beneficial it is to your mental health. But, there will be some days that running 15 miles will not lift that weight off your shoulders, and guess what? That is okay. It’s okay because life is hard. It is okay because even though there will always be something that triggers you, there is always daybreak when you wake up in the morning. When people just don’t get it, and when you feel like you are a burden to others—that is when you rise above. That is when you work on finding self worth in other places, and pity those that aren’t as human as you are. You always work in a forward direction, and that is something that you should be proud of.
You have to realize that you came into this world to be different. You came into this world to help those that are different too, and to try to advocate and make a safe place for them. It is important to identify why you are feeling a certain way and essential to express what you are feeling—but what is most important is that you always find a solution. It is imperative that you always seek to clear out some of the black clouds that sometimes fog your day. Because you are much more than you could even imagine.