Written by Girish Nambiar- Regular Contributor
There’s a couple of things I want to say but I don’t think i’ll say them all or have enough time to do so, however I promise you two things.
One is that after your read this you will have to change your minds about what Bipolar Disorder is and what it Isn’t. The second is that you will be grinning.
Let’s get started shall we?
Bipolar Disorder is not a disease. It’s more akin to being a curse but curses and diseases are not quite the same thing. It’s a curse I say but it’s also a gift.
How is it a curse? Well any discerning person will surely agree that we all have good days and bad days, good moments and bad ones. Moments that stick out like a sore thumb and moments in which the breeze on your face is all you need to smile.
As I sit here I wonder how many of you have experienced depression in your life. The kind of loneliness that sits next to you in a room and keeps you from leaving. The kind of sadness that clutches at your heart and spins a web around you to keep you from happiness. Joy… what a wonderful idea this is. The Bipolar patient is the pendulum that never quite hits joy. Or is she someone who hits joy too hard.
I put it to you…who among you would like to feel joy, give yourself a tap on the shoulder. If you raised your hand then you are just like me. The only difference is a matter of who’s sitting in which chair at the moment. Currently my chair feels a bit wobbly so I think i’m going to stand.
We are living in a time of great change, but then again, change has always been the word of the day so to be clearer, we are in a period of exponential change. It is a natural law that all things will eventually change at a faster pace than before.
One such change I would like to talk to you about is how we perceive mental illness in modern society and how that perception alters our viewpoint and reaction to people with apparent mental health issues.
Never before has information flowed so easily and been as pervasive as it is our current social zeitgeist than it presently is, and this continues to grow and manifest itself in a plethora of ways via social media and other “new age” platforms which serve to link humanity together and not drive a wedge between people with different life experiences.
My personal story of how I got to where I am will surely bore most of you but I’ll tell you a little and leave that to your own discretion to decide the type of person I am. I was born into wealth and security and have only ever know “The Good Life” because I want for nothing. I have my desires and curiosities and have been allowed lee way by my parents to explore the deepest darkest corners of my own little world so long as I don’t kick up a fuss in the process. However at a certain point, 19 years of age to be precise, I discovered substances like alcohol, pot, and all the others save for one or two. It has taken 10 years for me to discern my physical, mental and spiritual state of being as so far as understanding who I am in this world and where exactly it is I intend to end up. This thought, this manifestation of my greatest ambition and darkest fears combined into one heap has caused me to go off the rails on more than one occasion. I have no intention to do so again but sometimes going off the rails rewards you with things you wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to.
I am here to tell you that individuals that suffer from mental health come from all walks of life and experiences. I suffer from Bipolar Disorder which is another way of saying that I swing hard on the pendulum of emotion. . I do accept my diagnosis but I do not allow it to dictate my life and cause me to make choices that are less than optimal at the stage of writing this.
The truth is we are all a little Bipolar and we all suffer from some condition or the other that hinders the peaceful enjoyment of our lives. I have been to rehab 3 times now and learnt that the hard way. There is no quarter for the person with full blown mental health in this country to seek help and not end up in rehab or jail or some other far worse living status. They are lumped together and thrown in the back of a van and sent of to purgatory to live out the rest of their days constantly second guessing their every move, which I’m sure you’d agree is no way live one’s life.
It is a deep personal belief of mine thought that people who suffer from mental illness are able to see the world for what it truly is; an economy of people trying to get by in the most peaceful way possible. However that same economy of people tend to trample over others in the process of arriving at their desired destination and the ones that tread on are the ones who are locked away. Tread lightly, for you tread on my dreams, is a quote that Ken Robinson mentioned in his speech about schools killing human creativity.
Simply put, this is unfair and unjust from every angle that you care to look at it. If we are so certain that our own lives are perfect we tend to disregard the ones we surround ourselves with, especially those that show symptoms of being unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life. There is actually a phenomenon of being afraid to go to work. Ergophobia I believe is the term. An actual terror that clasps at the necks of certain individuals (myself included) in that they would prefer not to be in a closed office environment for 8 hours a day. This type of phenomenon is pervasive throughout the mental health spectrum and for good reason because it gives individuals permission to say “not today”, I am simply too vexed by the state of affairs in the world and, on a more personal level, in my own mindspace. “I think i’ll roll up a joint, get on the internet, see what “The World” is saying today, have a few beers with my mate (or on my own) and adopt a Taoist philosophy about my state of affairs.” That’s just one example I’ve given and no cigar for guessing who I’m talking about but there are many, many others who don’t have the access and resources. I personally have met a few who suffer far worse in their own ways. Ostracized by the functional social network of the day, the person then decides to self medicate or self harm or both, which should not be the case.
Back to bipolar disorder. There is a term that is used among certain groups which I am going to discuss briefly. An Empath is a person who has a strong emotional quotient and is able to wield their emotions in way that navigates social pressure and ever present divides. The empath is the girl holding the red balloon dancing in the rain. She is both saviour and muse and requires nothing in return aside to see smiles on the faces of individuals that crosses paths with her. If she does not see the smile returned, she goes into a state of deep delirium and begins chanting to herself words of wisdom to bring herself back into the her safe emotional ring. This is her safe zone and none are allowed or welcomed into it until she has recharged and is ready to empathise with her peers again.
I put it to you that we all feel as the Empath feels now and again, it is simply more prevalent in some individuals and less in others. This goes beyond morality into a realm that I myself am not fully cognizant of so I choose not to speak about it. Morality is knowing right from wrong. Empathy is knowing how to lift another persons spirit without damaging yourself or the individual in the process. It is no mean feat, let me assure you, and is gravely assisted by substance usage but such is the case that this is what true empathy looks like, at least from where i’m standing.
Mania is an enemy of the empath and though there is much to be said about psycho-spiritual experiences involving manic patients (this too has its pros and cons), it is never as enjoyable to the person experiencing it as it might appear to those watching it happen. It is the ultra state of the individual empath. It is the point at which they cross over their own inhibitions and release all the energy that has been built up to that point in any way or form they can. A bipolar patient experiences this kind of “mania” is not one to be trifled with and oftentimes ends badly for the patient.
In one of my various manic episodes I began writing quotations on the walls of my room to remind me things I had forgotten or things I should remember in the future as this moment is brief and may not last long enough for me to lock it into my being. I have also suffered from the messiah complex which is megalomania on a high scale, believing that I am the saviour or the broken and the damned. There is some fiction in these truths and some truths in these fictions. The skilled and experienced empath is able to tell the difference and side step minefields of positive and negative emotions to wiggle their way into a safer place.
I am not a perfect human being and for most of my life I have avoided responsibility at almost every turn. Not because i thought the work was beneath me, but because I could not see the light above me shining down and telling me that I could choose any life I wanted so long as I remembered to roll the rock up the hill. It occurs to me that this could have been the inspiration for rock n roll music. Food for thought.
The truth of the matter folks is that Bipolar Disorder should not be criminalised or ostracised or frowned upon in society. In fact it may be more necessary to have Empaths in society than there ever has been in the past. I believe that we can look beyond our differences and find a solution to this divide through better communication and I believe that honesty will heal the world. Now, what do you think?
Written by Girish Nambiar
Girish Kumar Nambiar is a freelance copywriter and entrepreneur who resides in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is 31 years of age and graduated with a law degree from Aberystwyth, Wales roughly 5 years ago. He is presently working to start-up a 3D printing service provider enterprise in addition to the copy-writing work that he does. He is also working on a Comic Book called Mud City as well as two other paperback books, one of which is a novel while the other is more of a personal piece or self-help guide to people suffering from mental health issues. The latter is called A Mind of Our Own and is very much still a work in progress. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder roughly 10 years ago and have has had his ups and downs in life just like any other person would. He believes that there are systemic problems in society that need to be remedied, particularly in the Asian region and thus is happy to work with MHFA to reach more readers and shed more light on Bipolar Disorder and other mental issues so attached such as ADHD and OCD.
Girish will be working on MHFAVoice as a regular contributor, make sure to keep an eye out for his work over the next couple of months!!