On when one is “Touched With Fire”–Thoughts on Manic Depressive Disorder

manic-depression-james-hammonsMost people live day to day.  They get up, live the events of their day, rejoice in triumphs, regret mistakes, look forward to a better tomorrow, go to sleep and then do it all over again the next day.  Someone living with Manic Depressive Disorder does not live that way, and the day to day can very easily end in suicide.  The world simply doesn’t spin the same for him.  The days don’t have the same meaning.

Someone suffering with Bi-Polar Disorder (a label which I basically consider a euphemism for, and less accurate than, Manic Depressive Illness) carries the dreams, hopes, plans, and experiences of his life throughout several days, or even weeks, on a continual emotional plane.  The “ups” stay up, defying anyone or anything to come along and flatten out the wonderful, creative, brilliant existence in which our hero resides when mania rules the day.

The trouble is never in the manic brilliance.  Oh no.  It comes just after;  just after the realization that the Mr. Hyde that rules the manic days has left, in his wake, a  trail of destruction and despair not unlike a small Oklahoma town after a tornado has blown through on an otherwise perfect spring night.  Very often it’s only the experts who see those kinds of things coming, both tornadoes and mania, but everyone can see the results of both.

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Wives, husbands, children, parents, friends, everyone close to you can be deeply hurt by your destructive tendencies when you’re manic and when they are left to pick up the pieces, the despair and depression can seem totally insurmountable.  Relationships can seem to be beyond repair. Debt can seem so deep that ever reaching a financially stable position again can appear to be just a very distant dream. Any true satisfaction from your job appears to be an impossibility.  Your guilt mixes with your feelings of failure and your failure begins to blend in with your questions about your relevance to the world. Those questions then bend themselves to dark resolutions about why the world would simply be better off without you in it.

You will very rarely find a note from a suicidal manic-depressive.  Plans aren’t necessarily made.  In the same way that our hero wants everything and everyone to be wonderful during a manic stage, he now wants the sorrow and regret and guilt and despair to go away, to not be his fault.  The pain that he has caused is so present now that nothing he can think of can take away the downward spiral that he feels he has caused.  These thoughts consume him constantly.  He just wants it all to stop, to be better again for everybody.

So, one day while driving home, his tears flood his eyes as he sees the minivan approaching him in the oncoming lane.  Drifting over, he heads straight on, head on, toward the moment when it will all be over.  But he can still see. And when he sees the man driving the oncoming van with his wife beside him and the children behind him screaming to turn away, he has just enough strength to pull over to his own lane just in time.

It’s time for help.

This story has a happy ending, but many end sadly.  This disease is real and can be devastating, and ignorance is our enemy.  The more we know, the more we can see.  My prayer is that we will all be willing to see with eyes of compassion and understanding before one more soul drives himself into the wrong lane, and instead of seeing that there is help ahead, drives right into the darkness.

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

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