From the shadows to the podium: what it’s like to be bipolar

Posted: 16 September 2011 in life
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Another excellent blog from PurplePersuasion about life with bipolar disorder. Follow her at

Imagine you’re going along in your life, weathering its ups and downs, managing your work/life balance as best you can just like everybody else, when some unseen force captures you and puts you in a cupboard. It’s dark inside the cupboard, and lonely. You start off being brave and thinking this can’t go on long, and that you’ll cope, but very quickly you realise you have no idea how long it will go on, maybe forever, and that you really can’t cope after all. You begin to hate yourself for being captured, to think that you are stupid and that the situation is all your own fault. You start to forget what you even look like, there in the dark. You find yourself thinking that you can’t bear it, and that if goes on much longer you will have to start to harm yourself, like an animal caught in a trap, or find a means of killing yourself, so that you don’t have to feel the pain of isolation and captivity any more. You find yourself wanting to sleep for longer and longer, and that seems like a good thing, because it’s an escape from reality for a time. It almost makes it worse that you can catch tantalising glimpses of light, and of other, normal, happy people, through cracks in the door. You long to interact with passers-by, but would they even hear you if you tried? Would they laugh at you, if you called out that you were held captive in a cupboard? Would they call you mad, a loony, a nutter? Would they walk away, pretending that they don’t know you are there? Would they tell you that you are overreacting, because the cupboard isn’t as bad as you seem to think it is? Would they tell you that you should be braver, and try harder to escape? Do you even have a voice anymore, after spending so long alone?

Now imagine that the same unseen force whisks you out of the cupboard and delivers you into the middle of a party. Everyone there seems unfeasibly attractive, and looking in a mirror, you realise that so do you! You are hot, and you have picked a great outfit! You can’t imagine why you thought you were fat when you were back in the cupboard, because you have a great body, and you are working it! The venue is great! The food is beyond delicious! The playlist is perfect! All the people that you meet are absolutely lovely! The party goes on, and you dance, and flirt, and talk and talk and talk, and everything you say is witty and insightful, and everyone tells you that you are on tremendous form. Ideas are fizzing up out of your brain like champagne bubbles, and as you dance around sharing your effervescent thoughts, they all get such an amazingly good reception that you start to believe that you are a little bit of a genius. You keep dancing, but you don’t get tired; you just want to do it more, snatching a few hours’ nap here and there before you get back on the dance floor. You dance on the bar, you dance on a podium, feelings of elation soaring through you, pulsing through your bloodstream until you feel like the top of your head might lift off. For a while, it all gets a bit intense; your feet get quite sore, and you start to feel that you might like a rest, actually, after all. But your body keeps on dancing because when you try to stop, it itches from the inside and you’re unable to stay still. You get annoyed with people who don’t seem to be able to keep up with your champagne bubble ideas, you snap at your entourage. Someone else gets very annoyed with you, because the last person you were flirting so suggestively was their recently-wed husband. You get your bar bill, and find you have maxed your credit card on drinks and canapés.

But then the party becomes more mellow. You figure out how to order less costly drinks and still enjoy yourself. You make a close friend and ask them to let you know discreetly if you are stepping out of line with your flirting. Everything’s still lovely, you’re still clever and funny and sexy, and all your party guests are still the most wonderful people, but you manage to leave them every night and get some sleep. You think back to your time in the cupboard, and it doesn’t seem real. This – this lower key, mellow party – it’s great. It’s like back before you were kidnapped only better; normal you, only more productive, more energetic, more fun to be around. You feel like you could go on and on like this forever.

And then one day you’re back in the cupboard.


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