I have been stable for a year now; there have been a few little dips in that time, due either to PMS or the first lockdown taking its toll on my relationship, but they were all brief stumbles rather than falls.
The year before was probably the worst of my life in terms of my bipolar. I’d got through a six month episode of intense hypomania followed by a one of the worst depressions I’d ever experienced, already. Yet the next year turned out to be even worse, when the depression morphed into a mixed states one with added layer of debilitating anxiety, persistent suicidal thoughts and extreme self harm urges that were nearly impossible to resist. I would punch myself in the face just to stop myself from crying, which I did often and uncontrollably; I would have extreme meltdowns triggered by sensory overload especially from sounds; I was haunted by mental images of everything I’d ever done wrong and everything that would probably go wrong in the future, as well as a monologue of horrible “truths” by my mean inner voice; on several occasions, when punching myself in the face didn’t work, I would bang my head against the wall.
Once, about an hour after banging my head against the wall until I stopped crying, the room started spinning around me and when I got to my feet to try and walk across the room to get to the bedroom, I couldn’t walk straight. I called the GP’s office and they told me it sounded like a severe concussion, especially since it happened an hour after hitting my head, and told me I needed to go to the emergency room. Of course, it seemed a better idea to take a nap, even if I might not wake up from it again, than ask my partner to drive me to A&E. So I collapsed on the bed, with that scene from Short Cuts playing in my head, along with the echoes of the “truth” that this was for the better, and my partner and everyone else in my life would be much better off without me.
I woke up again, obviously. But I think that illustrates how ill I was in 2019. I fought myself through two other suicide plans/attempts that year as well. But then, finally, when I’d run my relationship to the brink of ruin and exhausted my mental and emotional batteries, as if from nowhere, I stabilised.
When you’ve been unstable with back to back bipolar episodes for nearly five years, it’s kind of an otherworldly feeling to suddenly feel stable; it’s not just an emotional difference, it’s mental and physical as well. When you’re unstable it’s like you’re teetering on a cliff edge, your entire body is pulled taut with tension at all times, because if you let yourself relax for even a second you’ll fall into the abyss. So, I suppose, stability then, is like all tension draining out of your body and mind, it’s a migraine dispersing, or stepping onto solid ground after months at sea.
So I’m stable, and not only that but I’m really good. Happy. My life — not just my state of mind, but my whole life — is great. Part of me feels that my relationship was never really on a track to begin with, because I was hypomanic when we met and we skipped the honeymoon period altogether, so to say that it’s back on track isn’t entirely accurate. But we’re happier than we’ve ever been. Maybe this is our belated honeymoon period now.
On the day it was snowing for a full day in London, my partner and I went for a walk in our local forest and then out of nowhere, he took a tiny jewellery box from his coat pocket and asked me if I’d marry him. It was the perfect proposal, and I wish I could tell you that it received a perfect response, that I exclaimed a happy yes of course and threw my arms around him, which is what I’d envisioned doing every time I’d daydreamed about the scenario. But that is not what happened. The all-consuming shock that gripped me, accompanied by that weird thing I’ve had ever since I was a kid, when something really good happens to me, I get overwhelmed with positive feelings that I don’t know what to do with and just shut down. So instead of a happy yes of course, my poor partner got a what, no, don’t be stupid, no, stop it, before he got a yes. I think the fact that he took all this in stride and didn’t hold it against me, is a good sign.
I’m wearing his grandmother’s engagement ring now, and it helps me get used to the idea. As does pinning DIY wedding ideas and Save The Date inspiration on Pinterest. We’re engaged. But it’s not just that. I’m not living a Disney film, so the end goal of my existence is not to marry a handsome prince. But we’re happy together, things are easier. We laugh. We’re planning to start trying for a baby again. On top of that, I have landed my dream job and am working on two incredibly exciting project. So yes, my life is really good.
Of course, it takes time and practise to trust it. Even if I can accept that I’m well and have been for a year, since I know there’s no guarantee that it will last or that I won’t stumble into another episode again any minute, I can’t help but feel like I’m waiting for the second shoe to drop. It’s a low level, legitimate anxiety. But — and this is how I know I really am well right now — it doesn’t manifest itself in any physical symptoms and it doesn’t prohibit me from getting on with my life. It’s just a whispered worry at the back of my mind.