“My normal nightmare” was written by a person who suffers from manic depression since many years. This impressive essay is telling her story and helps non-affected people to understand what living with this disorder feels like.
Everybody has a story to tell. But how many of us get the chance to be heard?
Again and again, I have been told to write down my life´s story as a mentally ill person. And many times, I thought my feelings could not be translated into word. But all these years my desperation has grown; I felt so completely unable to relate my living circumstances to “sane” people.
At the end I had accepted that only those who suffer from the same illness could understand what life is really like living with a bipolar disorder.
While I suffer from a clinical major depression, I am not able to write down anything. Of course, while I was really ill, I was completely cut off from creativity and inspiration. It made no sense to write down sentences centred on emptiness. A “sane” person will never experience that sort of tiredness that afflicts you. I usually have the desire or need to sleep at least fourteen hours a day. When I finally get up it is to find my whole body is aching. Worst, still you feel deeply ashamed for sleeping through the day. That emotion is your first feeling every morning. Usually, it’s about two or three in the afternoon, sometimes it may even be three thirty and if its winter, the light is already fading.
I tell myself that I want coffee, that a lovely cup of coffee is worth the pain of leaving the bed. First you have coffee and then you start living a day. Another empty day. Because, of course, there is no structure, no purpose, no reason. You suffer from a major depression, so you are not able to do anything productive. Days are empty. One day is the same as the next day. Each day resembles the other. But if it should happen, that I actually do have a date to keep – maybe an appointment with the psychiatrist – this event fills me with deep fear, or rather it sends me into a panic attack. Any human interaction is seen as a source of danger. When I survive any encounter without major incidents, I am left astonished. After the surprise to have managed follows a feeling of relief. And from relief springs a desire to get a reward. Is it a reward or just a loss of control after the strain earlier?
Anyway, I usually start to eat a large amount of junk food. Anything sweet and soft would serve the purpose. I don’t know how to stop eating. I must eat until I feel nausea and my stomach is aching. That is the point when I wish I´d rather be dead. The greatest possible amount of self-hatred always follows my loss of control. Food is nasty, food is abomination. I feel so disgusted with myself. That is how life may feel like living with a clinical major depression, social phobia, and bulimia nervosa. But this is a bout bipolar disease.
Bipolar is causing mayhem with any life. Because here comes different seasons: this is feeling seductively great at the beginning but is just as destructive. Becoming maniacal. While I am affected with mania, I always write a lot, being pushed by compulsion. Only is there nothing I write worth reading. Normally it is difficult to understand which means it is simply lacking any sense. This is mania: you do not need to sleep, you do not need to eat, you can be creative and productive – only after a very short period of time, productivity becomes psychosis. That is the moment I am no longer myself. Contact with reality is lost.
I very much dread psychosis induced precipice. All my maniac crashes end in hospitals. Only a stay in a psychiatric ward of a very long duration will stabilize me enough to return to normality. Most of the times I receive a new medication of anti-psychotic drugs.
These periods are long and exhausting. After some months I may be returned to my normal life. The question I ask is whether this normal life is worth living? Living with a mental disorder that is an alteration between extreme euphoria and deep depression leaves many of us suicidal. I had my fair amount of suicide attempts. So, I am deeply grateful to still be alive.
An essay by Patrizia Dell´ Acqua