*NOTE: This is something I wrote weeks ago, mulled over again and again, but feel it’s time to post it.
I am not one to air my dirty laundry in public as a general rule, but I’ve knowingly been dealing with something for over 10 years. I say “knowingly” because I don’t know how long I’ve dealt with it before then: a person I am close to that I’m 99% sure has Bipolar Disorder. I’m not the only person who finds myself where I am; those of us involved were all in the dark until about 10 years ago.
I won’t go into all the crazy details, the things that have happened, the things we’ve been told had happened back when this person could have been taken in for evaluation. When you think everything is “A” and find out that it’s much farther down the alphabet, and you can’t do a damn thing about it, it’s frustrating. I know I’m not the only person who is dealing with this situation either. I hear the story repeated time and again from people all over.
You find out there is an issue, usually from observing erratic behaviors. You try to ask the person questions about things they do or say and they tell you they are perfectly normal behaviors and they are doing the same thing they’ve always done. You do research, you shake your Magic 8 Ball, and “All signs point to Yes”. You make phone calls to mental health professionals and meet a wall because “They’re an adult and unless they’re hurting themself or others, you can’t do anything.” You arm yourself with knowledge. You try with all your heart to be compassionate because you love them, it’s not “their fault” and you want them to be “normal” again… Sadly, “normal” is an illusion.
The situation I find myself in is as someone who this person fears disapproval of (what they’ve told others), but when it comes to saying anything, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t – good or bad. So I don’t. Recently they’ve chosen to cut me out of their life.
The reality of life with loved ones with Bipolar Disorder (even undiagnosed though we’re pretty damn certain it is the issue), is that unless the loved one seeks help on their own or becomes a danger to themselves or others – there isn’t a damn thing you can do except sit on the sidelines and wait for some horrible event or hopefully, an epiphany to happen to prompt the person to seek help.
So, I sit here… and read more about Bipolar Disorder and shake my head at all the experts advice except for “take care of yourself”. Because you can’t care for them, only yourself and everyone else affected. You have to sit on the sidelines, a spectator to the carnage, hoping the referees make the right calls but their backs are always turned.
I’ve cried over the events that have transpired over these past years. I said this person wasn’t well each time they were “normal” again and that the “other shoe will fall”. They’ve dropped a few pairs of shoes already. I’ve hardened myself to the situation, but care deeply at the effects it’s having on the others involved. I scorn these “false friends” of theirs who believe they are telling them the right things to do – but what this person tells them, I know not. They’re brilliant at getting people to believe the stories they make up, their “reality”, what their mind sees as truth.
I have been watching a person who is brilliant with music and has a way with horses that rivals The Horse Whisperer crumble into someone barely-recognizable as their former self and it breaks my heart. I have a great support network, friends and family who are dealing, or have dealt, with these same issues, albeit with different people. I also have friends and family who have Bipolar Disorder and are being treated, some much better than others. I don’t need to go to a therapist to talk about things anymore… I have a lot of people who let me vent and just listen, who will give me advice if I ask.
I now know how people with mental illness become homeless. I know how cruel it sounds, but the way the system is set up, adults cannot be forced into treatment and trying to keep them grounded in reality drains you. Letting go can be so hard.
I don’t not care about this person… but I have to let go of situations I have no control over. I’ve let go.