Reality is both subjective and fluid to a person with bipolar disorder. I’ve touched upon my issues with delusion in previous posts. It’s a difficult thing to explain to someone who is not mentally ill, that there is nuance with delusion and psychosis. I think people can wrap their heads around crazy; they can picture the person who hears voices, who sees things and who is detached from reality. What is trickier to understand is that this same person might appear normal. That they might function. That someone might experience these things and still walk through life, paying bills and making friends and acting like they’re not living what most people would consider a nightmare, is a bit hard to relate to.
It’s not hard to know that the voices in your head or the unsolicited thoughts are lies. I do live in the real world, after all, and I’m capable of rational thought. But in times of stress, they become insistent. Relentless. Ignoring them becomes less practical than compartmentalizing.
I live in two realities.
Or rather, my experiences are divergent. Bubbles occur in my stream of reality when I am, quite literally, of two minds about something or someone. I had a moment like this recently on my birthday while on a visit to the Biodome in Montreal. At the Antarctic exhibit, there were puffins. I was overwhelmed by feelings of wonder and surprise and burst into tears. It’s not like I’d never seen photographs of puffins before, but somehow, somewhere along the way (in spite of evidence to the contrary), I had compartmentalized a belief that they were mythical creatures.
There is no particular pattern to my delusions, except for the commonality that they persist in spite of the fact that I know they are not factual. I’ve touched on a few of these in previous posts:
- I have supernatural powers, including but not limited to invisibility, telekinesis and flight.
- My father and stepmother, besides being themselves, were also John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
- I am an atheist and do not believe in an afterlife but my dead grandfather is watching me and I used to have conversations with him in my head.
- I don’t expect to wake up tomorrow. This one has made it very difficult to follow through on school, long-term commitments and to plan for the future.
- Stuffed animals come alive at night.
- People can read my thoughts.
- Animals can read my thoughts.
- I have a baby that I am forgetting about.
- Dreams are real life and real life is a dream.
- I have imagined my husband and one day I will wake up and he will have disappeared.
- I have imagined my son and one day I will wake up and he will have disappeared.
Combatting these delusions is exhausting. How strong and persistent they are waxes and wanes depending on my mental state. But what is even more exhausting is hiding the crazy. Trying to appear normal while all of these things are going through my head only feeds into the notion that other people can sense what is different about me.
Because of that, there is a certain liberation in outing myself. In writing, I lay myself bare. I think that more than anything, fear is what keeps people from healing. To avoid facing their fears, people will lie and avoid and build a wall around themselves. The fear of being ‘found out’ for who we are and having our private selves revealed can be paralyzing.
Surprisingly, there is nothing that has given me a greater feeling of control over my life than baring my inadequacies. I am the captain of my ship. There is satisfaction in knowing that the decisions people make about my worth (good or bad) are based on truths they know about me, rather than from some perceived reality.