Posted by Archa Renu Baburaj
There have only been a few instances in my life when I have experienced what people call a ‘fleeting moment of happiness’. Today, I am a 24 year old lawyer and a post graduation student. My life has been nothing out of the ordinary. However, one thing I was fairly certain about ever since I started developing a ‘conscience’ was that there is something fundamentally ‘off’ about me.
Do not get me wrong, I would not make the mistake of self diagnosing a mental disorder. As fate would have it, 23 years in this messy world and I get handed a paper telling me exactly what is wrong with me. My ‘gut feeling’ as one would call it, was right. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
The rest of this essay contains intimate mental health experiences. Kindly consider this as a trigger warning
I was relieved to finally get my diagnosis, it felt like closure of some sort. It finally felt like I had an identity. Something that explained a plethora of instances in my life that felt like I had absolutely no control over them. Some people say that finally receiving your diagnosis can change your life in unexplainable ways, that it gives you something to work for when you finally realise and diagnose a ‘problem’.
Well, things did change. I descended down the path of self destruction despite my self awareness. The ‘awareness’ did not stop me from going down this path. Saying my childhood was ‘eventful’ would clearly be an understatement. My childhood was chaotic and disruptive. Most of the times, I wouldn’t be able to make sense of what was happening around me. Like the lyrics from that popular song – it comes and goes in waves.
The emotions. The mood swings. The intense feeling of isolation and loneliness. I could never fit in anywhere. I always felt out of place which resulted in my friend circle changing faster than the weather or the stock market. All this eventually ended up in me having an ultimate identity disturbance for the duration of my entire childhood and all through my teenage years. I just could not find a way to be happy. It was always one guy after the other. One break up after another. One extrovert friend after an introvert one.
Also read: Same Coin, Two Sides: My Bipolar Diagnosis
Everything moved so fast. It was like walking on a treadmill but the speed was controlled by someone else and I would be expected to start running when I just started enjoying the walk.
Adulthood did not get any better. Yes, I went with the cliché stereotype. The mentally ill person with a substance abuse problem. Alcohol was my substance. It was my ultimate escape until it got to a point where it started consuming every aspect of my dreadful life. My life wasn’t all pain and misery. There were instances where my illness would drive me to do impulsive things like deciding to spend all my savings on a backpacking trip or running away to a completely different city with a Tinder match whose last name I cannot recall to this day.
I wouldn’t take any of these experiences back. Those ‘fleeting moments of happiness’ I mentioned earlier were from these impulsive, hasty decisions that are very questionable to say the least. Things went south when my alcohol abuse got worse. I realised it was time to talk to a doctor. It wasn’t like I did not try before.
But, I was always shot down with very profound arguments like “depression is an aesthetic for kids these days”, “it’s because you have nothing serious to focus on”, “you should do yoga and meditate more often”, “why can’t you be more positive”.
Fast forward to one year post medication and therapy, I don’t know if I can say I am in a good place. It is a process. It does not get better overnight. The diagnosis gives you a sense of closure but it also slaps a label on your forehead – ‘the sick kid’, ‘the crazy girl’, ‘the suicidal maniac’.
I want to end this on a happy note and say it gets better but truth be told, I don’t have the slightest idea. There are days when it feels like the world is my oyster and then there are days when the apartment may have to be vacated because no one wants a suicidal, bipolar tenant. There are days when the possibility of being dumped for being the ‘psycho girl’ the boyfriend couldn’t ‘handle’ comes crashing down.
I look forward to the day when I can enjoy the full spectrum of human emotions, to the day when I feel normal. Normalcy is not “boring” for people like us. It is precious. I crave a normal, boring, stable life.
And, no, the weather is not bipolar today. Nonchalantly peppering in the word “bipolar” to describe a bad day is problematic. Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental illness that requires constant therapy and medication. Romanticising the term for literary emphasis is ableist and needs to stop.
Imagine a glass that is hollow on both ends and you keep filling it with things, hoping to fill it and draw a sense of fulfillment only to realise it was all an exercise in futility. That is my life. An endless void. A bottomless pit. To all the readers, I know I’m about to sound like a broken record but take it from a person with multiple mental disorders – this is not an aesthetic.
Going out or doing yoga doesn’t cut it. Today, I feel brave. Today, I am not ashamed of my mental disorder. Today, I am not going to let the mainstream narratives define me. Today, I want you to pay attention. To everyone out there suffering like I have been all these years, I wish I could give you words of assurance and hope but I’m just as clueless as you are.
But, one thing I can say for certain is – you will learn to survive. I genuinely hope this nudges you at least a little towards the path of survival and recovery. This is not a “call-out”. I am not insinuating that you ‘cancel’ people who self diagnose themselves. Rather, I would like to reiterate that mental illness is not a fashion statement. It is real, painful and feels like an everyday uphill battle for those who fight it.
Invalidating this pain would be doing people with mental disorders the greatest disservice. Your pain is valid. As for me, you can find me constantly battling my inner self who is determined to see me burn in hell. Today, I am not letting her win. She can take the L on this one.
Archa is a Marxist Feminist. She loves tea and is currently taking it one day at a time. You may find her on Instagram
Featured Image Source: Cadabam’s