Jelly Donuts, Sweet Little Liars & Crazy People

Being Bipolar has it’s good parts. I mean, how many times have you said, “Hey, I’m going to write a musical,” and then actually followed through with it? I do that all the time. Bipolar people get a bad rap, but the truth is that we really like parts of our illness. The manic phases are great – we are the funniest, most interesting, and smartest people in the room. And then the depression comes along and makes us realize that we’re just tiny pieces of human flotsam in the great eternal septic tank.

Neither one of these feelings is entirely accurate.

I am what you would call a rapid-cycling bipolar person. What that means is that I get away with looking like a relatively normal human being most of the time because I am constantly in a state of emotional flux. I’m “passionate,” “dramatic,” “mercurial,” and “crazy-in-a-good-way.” When I’m around other people, it makes me feel very up. And, since I’m an actress at heart, I’m great (at least I think I’m great) at pretending to be very emotionally stable. On the outside, I’m like a beautiful fluffy powdered donut – no muss, no fuss.

The people who live with me know better. They know the horrible jelly-filled secret.

My poor husband never really knows what kind of wife he’s going to come home to, especially if I haven’t been taking care of myself (a side effect of being manic). He might come home to find that I have completely scoured the house, cooked a four-course lobster dinner with foie gras appetizers, and decided to home school our daughter and her three friends. Or, he might come home to find me covered in ice cream smears watching my fifth hour of “Odd Squad,” while my child teaches herself how to bow-hunt wild pheasants in order to survive.

I may be exaggerating slightly, but the potentially inner mess is always just waiting to ooze out all over the fingers of unsuspecting victims.

Still, being rapid-cycling is not as bad as it could be, especially if I’m taking care of myself. I am motivated and energetic for bursts of 1-3 hours. Then, I go into a slight funk where I am brooding, introspective, and sometimes question why I exist and whether God is a myth and if I’m ever going to be truly happy and if I’ve ruined my life permanently. Then, I realize that I’m feeling badly and I do something to cheer myself up, like build a treehouse. Back to an even keel and prepped for another high!

What I don’t understand is people who suffer from depression. My husband is one of these people. He gets into a funk and I just say something like, “Pull yourself out of it,” or “You are the one who controls your emotions.” He just gets mad at me and wishes I would be less metaphorically a jelly-filled donut and more literally a box of jelly-filled donuts. I don’t get this because (for the most part), I really do have control over my emotions.

Also jelly-filled donuts are disgusting. Disgusting liars pretending to be delicious.

I don’t know why he just can’t fix himself. At least, I used to think this before I really understood how different being Bipolar and being clinically depressed actually is. I thought, “I know how to cheer myself up and even myself out. How can he not?” It never occurred to me that there would be a mental illness where you literally don’t have the skills or ability to identify or change your emotional state on a whim.

Why do I tell you this? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I found myself Googling, “What can I do if I’m being manic?” whilst watching “Odd Squad” today. Maybe I’m angry at the universe for creating such a treasonous pastry such as the jelly donut. All I know is that I’m unhinged because I haven’t been exercising and sleeping like I should. I’m nervous about things going on in the lives of the people I love and I’m mad at the horrible things in the universe I can’t control. I clean and think and build and write to try and drive out all the worry and the what-if.

The lack of control is hard. Not impossible, but hard.

My brain is going to do what it’s going to do. The universe will keep sending floods and fights and filling perfectly good sweets with disgusting bug guts – if it so wishes. My goal is simply to keep on going and trying to make the world a little bit more beautiful despite the strangeness inside of my own head. And if that means embracing my crazy and using it to my advantage when I can, then I’m doing a stunning job.

As for my poor husband? Fortunately, I’ve evened out a lot over the last 11 years. Even he can attest to the fact that I’m more normal now than I’ve ever been. And I understand his depression a lot more now than I have before. Age breeds empathy, I’ve found. Despite our disparate mental hijinks, I’ve learned to accept his as a part of our unique couple dynamic. When he’s down, I’m there to listen and love until he feels ready to face the world again.

And me? I’m no puff pastry. No matter how much it irks me, I’ve got jelly deep down in my soul. Some people love that about me and some people hate it. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to appreciate the mess as much as I love the powder-coated facade. Until then, I appreciate everyone who loves my insides just as much as my outsides. I’m working on it.

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