I wrote a post on The Bipolar Writer Blog wherein I described Bipolar Disorder as engrossing. I encourage you all to read that post, but the short version is this: One effect of hypomania or mania experienced by many people suffering from bipolar disorder is an intense desire and focus to do one thing – in short, they become completely engrossed in that one thing, sometimes to the point of having no desire or ability to do anything else.
Engrossing isn’t always a terrible thing – you can get a lot done in a short amount of time if you have the time to work on that thing. In fact, I think this is one of the best parts of bipolar disorder. I’ve learned a lot by becoming engrossed in different things throughout my life. The problem is that things like work, children, and… you know… eating, sleeping, and having actual relationships sort of get in the way.
And this leads us to frustration. Ah, frustration – that thing you feel when you’re unable to achieve something you want… or what you experience when trying to open one of these:
To me, frustration is one of the defining emotions of bipolar disorder. I get so wrapped up in one single thing, and it becomes all I want to do; but life keeps getting in the way! I still have a family. I still have a job. And my 4 month old doesn’t care that I have to finish this blog post or I’ll lose my mind!
This leads to anger, and the occasional shameful parenting moment; and over time it can lead to resentment. Unfortunately these emotions are usually directed (unfairly) at the so-called “obstacles” to fulfilling the object of your manic engrossment. This leads to some very odd, very unhealthy thoughts like: man, can’t my 3 year old just walk to preschool so I can work on this masterpiece tongue depressor bridge model that I have to finish. (side note here: It turns out tongue depressor bridge building is a thing because of course it is. While googling it to find an image for this post I found a rich online community dedicated to it. I love the internet…)
Frustration is a normal part of parenting, and life in general. But it can be elevated to irrational levels for someone suffering from bipolar disorder. Denying access to the object of a manic or hypomanic person’s engrossment is like denying an alcoholic their precious whiskey… something I also know nothing about.
In turn, the person or people who are seen as denying access can come to be seen as “enemies” – which to me is one of the most difficult and tragic parts of bipolar disorder. Anything that has the ability to make you view your family as an “enemy” – even temporarily – is truly terrible.
And finally, bipolar disorder is frustrating when the depression returns and robs you of your will to continue pursuing your engrossment. It’s like when you have to sneeze, and at the last moment you can’t. Except the sneeze is your entire life’s work, and the sneeze going away is soul-crushing depression returning.
Here’s another helpful image:
It’s around the time the depression returns that you begin to realize you’ve probably been neglecting a lot of things you shouldn’t have – and maybe you’ve been a bit of a jerk too. These realizations make the depression even worse, and feed into self-loathing… but that’s a topic for another post.
So that’s how I find bipolar disorder to be frustrating. This is the second part of a series I am writing that explores various aspects of bipolar disorder, and how I experience them as someone suffering from type 2 bipolar disorder.
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