Between the Waves of Mental Illness

In my experience, living with mental illness is like riding waves. A drastic crescendo followed by a swift plummet, repeating over and over again. As the high waves cascade over me, I feel euphoric, invincible, impulsive, and exhilarated. But like any joyride, these waves are unsustainable, unmanageable and overwhelming. When the waves come crashing down, it feels as if I am drowning. The low waves plunge into a frigid darkness and I struggle to keep my head above water. It is in between the waves, when the surface of the water is calm, that I feel peaceful, capable, and in control.

I can relate this metaphor to all my diagnoses: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), PTSD, and Anxiety. The waves encompass the mania and depression of my bipolar disorder. Up and down, up and down. They represent the storm that is BPD, constant thrashing waves as I sink further below the surface. PTSD and Anxiety are like being thrown into cold icy water, expected to float with nothing to hold onto.

In between the waves, there is only a gentle ebbing and flowing of the water. The calm after the storm. This is stability. I exist in the present moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I am driven but not obsessed, I am positive but not disillusioned, and I am excited but not impulsive. I am able to set and accomplish goals. With my mental illness, it seems like I spend more time riding the waves than I do enjoying the calm between them. Depression can last from days to months and mania occurs a few times per year. I have learned to live for the moments in between and I have learned to understand that no matter how tumultuous the storms are, the water will always return to calm.

There was a time when I used to try and manipulate the waves. When they carried me upwards, I tried to maintain that state of energy, but it was tiring. When the waves crashed downward, I fought against them in an attempt to keep my head above the water. I have since learned to drift with them, letting them carry me up and down. I have learned to swim through the storm, but I will always be waiting for the moments in between the waves.

2 thoughts on “Between the Waves of Mental Illness

  1. I used to work with you at a caption phone company. I have a horrible time making friends, an even worse time maintaining friends. People get sick of me and toss me out like a piece of trash. I get really happy when I think just one person cares about me, then it all comes crashing down when they figure out they want nothing to do with me. I go out of my way to be nice to everyone and get treated like a weirdo. For my entire life I thought I was ugly and that was the reason people didn’t want anything to do with me, it wasn’t until I was given some very nice compliments from someone and actually asked on a date that that I began to think I wasn’t so ugly. I lost some weight and more people showed an interest in me, I started to believe in myself and was confident for the first time in my life. It was great, I was making friends, people asked me to hang out and socialize, one time. I get a lot of first dates or hang out with people one time, they never want to see me again. They’ll still be nice and friendly to me but will have excuses why they didn’t invite me to a group event, and always turn down my requests in the nicest way. It’s a confusing world when people just don’t say what they mean and won’t let you know what you did wrong. It’s the worst to think someone is your friend and to be ghosted by them. My friendship and love is all I can offer anybody, and it’s all I want in return. I don’t understand why my friendship and love isn’t desired by anyone else. When I want it from everyone and not a single soul wants it in return, it makes me feel worthless. I’ve been severely depressed for the last year and a half and I don’t think that will ever change at this point. There are all these groups you’d be labeled an awful person for judging them and looking down on them for something they can’t control, like their race, or sexual orientation. But it’s perfectly acceptable to treat someone with some mental issues like they’re not human or normal. I know to everyone else I am not normal, but to me, in my head I am normal, I’m how I am and that’s normal to me. I don’t know if I have a point to any of this. Just venting my feelings I guess. I do hope you’re doing well, you were always nice to me at that company. I did have one friend at that company, I would text them and they’d always text back, until the day I stopped working there and told them, never returned my text. Texted back a few months later and was ignored again. Texted one last time a few months later to sarcastically thank them for being such a good friend. I don’t know, as you can tell I’m crazy.

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