I read a book about a woman who has faced being Bipolar since she was a child. She always knew something was "wrong" with herself, or that she was different than other kids. She put into words things I have felt for a very long time. Though, I don't recall feeling like I was different from other kids. I didn't really start noticing things about myself, that were "different", until my sophomore year in high school.
I remember doing a project for my English class... we were studying mental illnesses of varying sorts, for some reason. We were reading things like, The Bell Jar and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sybil. All very disturbing, I might add. I was working with a partner on the topic of "depression". As I was finding the signs and symptoms, I noticed that I was reading a list that described myself.... part of the time. I didn't always feel that way; it was intermittent. After I had made the poster, I showed it to my mom from across the room to see if she could read it. Part of my reasoning for doing this was to see if she recognized these same traits in me. I didn't tell her this, though, nor have I, ever. She could read it, but when she was done, she asked, "Are you depressed?".
I've always been an impulsive person and considered myself very passionate and determined. I still like these things, about me, even if they're due to an imbalance in my brain. I'm only guessing they are because of the book, I read. She described feeling some of the same things and being the same way. I can see how they would be related. She mentioned feeling emotions for longer or more extreme than other people and having a harder time getting over disappointment, than most. She found herself working too fiercely for things and how it wore on her but that didn't stop her. She's easily overwhelmed by stress and some situations or how certain things would send her spiraling, down. At other times, she was the life of the party, so to speak. I can relate to all of these things, and more. She always had a rather unhealthy drive to be perfect. She thought she would lose her father's love if she brought home anything less than A+'s on her school work. I have always felt a need for perfection, mostly in outward ways. I'm a very anal clean-freak. I can't stand crumbs or sticky spots or laundry folded the wrong way or dishes loaded incorrectly in the dishwasher. If one thing gets cleaned, then everything needs to be cleaned, to match. It's either that, or I totally let things go. The house gets messy, the laundry doesn't even get folded or put away... I just stop caring. I feel like a failure for not...well, being perfect, and find myself spiraling, down.
One extreme or the other. That's the gist of being me. I do have to say, the medication I've been taking for a while, now, has helped balance things, a little. I still experience the extremes, but I'm more aware of what's causing them. I'm able to be more relaxed while striving to stay responsible. It's not always easy. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the medicine is working, at all. Or maybe I have habits that have been formed, in the past, and I have to reshape new ones.
I never know what normal is. I know the medication won't make it all go, away. I know it won't cure me of what's been ailing me. But how effective is it supposed to be? How do I know the difference between a normal bad day or a bipolar bad day?
I think these are only things that can be answered by a professional. Someday, I'll get to that point. I'm still learning.