Last night, my feelings were deeply hurt by an experience with a friend I've known for years. Writing about it made me feel much better but I decided to delete it this morning. The incident is less important than my response, which I do plan on leaving in this blog. As I relaxed in my bubble bath afterwards, I composed the following letter (in my mind, which I won't send) to my friends and relatives.
Dear Non-Bipolar Friends and Relatives:
I've been thinking a lot lately about what it has meant to be bipolar for so many years. And I've recently come to some realizations that I'd like to share with you.
Even though I emailed many of you about my blog, few of you have told me that you've read it or if you have, you've barely mentioned it. None of you have posted comments. Only my aunt in Texas has said that she's really enjoyed what I've written.
How do you think that makes me feel? Two days ago, I recorded my 100th post. I've made an entire community of new friends. I've had people who were total strangers to me only a few months ago, respond with so much kindness and empathy to my posts, that I've been touched to my very core.
Yet, those of you that I've known my entire life or for much of it, haven't responded at all. Could it possibly be that in 100 posts you haven't read anything that's touched you at all?
Or is it that you haven't taken the time to read what I've written because you're not bipolar so you're not interested. You know, it was bad enough when I wrote my three books and you never even wrote me a note to say what a great job I'd done.
Personally, I can't understand it. If you had ever shared one thing you'd written, I'd have been so proud of you. If you had the courage to share your thoughts as I've shared mine, I've have understood you so much better.
I must admit that I find your lack of interest appalling. During the last 39 years, I've experienced 120 depressive episodes. I've survived an illness that few people survive--with my sense of humor in tact. I've seen "death" as surely as if I'd had a terminal disease. I've felt such excruciating psychic pain that it's indescribable.
I've read books about people climbing Mount Everest and I feel that we bipolars who survive this illness have conquered something far more important than climbing a mountain--even one that's so high. And we've done it without Sherpa guides.
In fact, for the most part, we've done it without great empathy from our doctors (there are exceptions and I feel fortunate that my psychiatrist is very empathetic), without effective medication, without adequate health insurance, and without sympathy and empathy from bosses, friends, and relatives.
So, perhaps you can understand why finding a bipolar community has been so important to me. For the first time, I am living--if only virtually--in a community of bipolar people. So, I don't really have to be concerned with being bipolar. I know that whatever emotion I've felt, they've probably shared. I know what however sick I've been, they've probably felt similarly.
I know that however much my feelings have been hurt by people who unconsciously (or not) have said unkind things, my fellow BIPS know what it feels like. Most importantly, I know I don't have to explain my behavior to them. And I don't have to apologize.
Could it be that we who are bipolar are the only people in the universe who can honestly share our feelings? I've got to say that it sometimes feels that way. Otherwise, how could it be that you've read 100 blog postings and have remained silent?
I just don't get it. I'm beginning to feel that I like BIPS better than other people (except "older" people who I also find extraordinarily honest and giving). I am beginning to feel that even with our weaknesses and flaws, we are more sensitive and more caring that others.
I am writing this letter to you with the hope that at least some of you will respond so that I can understand your absence--both emotional and physical--during the last 14 years when I was so very ill.