“Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.”
I’m going to go right ahead and call hogwash on this classic belief. I have bipolar disorder, and before my diagnosis, I always held the sincere belief that I was – well – crazy.
I’ve lived most of my life with the mentality and assumption that I was different. And no, not different in the whole “I’m a unique snowflake” sort of way. I was different in a not-so-awesome way. I was different in the sense that I could spend days and weeks in a harrowing depression, while keeping up the illusion of being a lovely, perfectly average young lady. I was a pacifist, peace loving, bleeding heart. Yet, I would go through periods when I could be sent into a violent episode of destruction and chaos. Sometimes, I’d get to the point where I’d be hallucinating. Seeing things like corpses or the piano playing itself.
What the actual hell.
I knew something wasn’t right; I’d have to be blind not to see it. I came to accept the notion that I was a complete nutter, trying desperately to hide under the mask of sanity. And needless to say, I did a pretty decent job of it. For the most part, the people in my life were fairly oblivious to what was going on. I had the reputation of being the “bubbly” one.
Eventually, it got to feel like I was leading 2 lives: The sane one and the crazy one. Very few people were aware that both of these lives existed.
I believed I was crazy, yet I refused to do anything about it. When you believe you’re crazy, you want to keep that secret deep, deep down. I wanted to hide that bad boy far, far away. In my naive little mind, if I were to reach out and seek help, it would be the equivalent of streaking down Whyte Ave, ranting and raving about an impending zombie apocalypse. Or something like that. Reaching out, to me, meant publically yelling out “I’m a madwoman.”And really, who wants to be known as the town lunatic?
So I didn’t talk about it. I went 10 long years without breathing a word to anyone.
That all fell apart when my fiancé left me. As much as I could try to hide the crazy side of me from the world, I couldn’t hide it from him. He was constantly urging me to seek help, and I was constantly making excuses as to why I shouldn’t. He reached his breaking point, because there’s only so long you can watch someone live their life in the gutter.
I certainly effed that one up.
Losing my relationship made me realize that enough was enough. I was done with being crazy. Not only was it costing me my happiness, it was now costing me my relationships. I got in contact with my family doctor that day, and visited her the following morning. From there, I was urgently referred to a psychiatrist. And so, on my 22nd birthday, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After a lengthy chat with the psychiatrist, I came to realize something. It was a realization that society needs to have damn soon. I had an epiphany. I’m not crazy, I’m just bipolar.
My brain works differently than most. There’s a science to it. If I were diabetic, I’d never think I was crazy because my insulin production didn’t work like everyone else’s. Likewise, I shouldn’t believe I’m crazy because my brain works in ways unlike most.
We’ve arrived at the takeaway message. If you have any inkling that there’s something off going on, don’t let it linger. Hiding it can only bring harm, and we need to change this misconception that asking for help is something to be ashamed of. There should be and must be no shame in mental illness. This something I had to learn the hard way.
I’m not speaking for everyone in this article. Mental illness is not a cookie-cutter experience; nobody will ever experience it in the same way. This article is a mere anecdote of events in my life, and I write with the hope that others can find some comfort in knowing that they aren’t alone in their mental health journeys. I write in hopes of putting a face and a story to bipolar, to help break that ever-present mental illness stigma. And if that doesn’t happen, I write in hope that maybe a couple people out there might enjoy reading this.
So here I am. After years of believing I was crazy, I’ve finally learnt that I’m not. I’m just bipolar.