Can’t wait to walk down the aisle
Is my attention span so short because my brain’s chemicals are having a party or is my treatment responsible as well? Am I getting on a plane in the middle of the night because my brain needs adrenaline ASAP or am I just an overly enthusiastic travel addict?
The "Who am I?" vs. "What are my symptoms?" dilemma is an ongoing internal battle for everyone with a mental disorder. And once you start a treatment, you suddenly become more aware of your behaviors, actions, feelings and thoughts. While it’s awesome to see things in a different bright light, this awakening can cause anxiety and existential crisis.
As a follow up to my summer story, the bipolar disorder is a mood and an energy disorder. I was both the kid that wandered the city and the kid who didn’t go out for a week. During high school, I went on more than a hundred day trips (mostly by myself) and I went to concerts 130 km away from my home. Three days before an important exam, I bought a film festival ticket and travelled ten hours (one way) to see a specific movie. I am usually spending the summers glued to bed, too depressed to even go to the bathroom.
My enthusiasm is contagious, cool and even romantic. That’s how I got on a two-day trip to Chicago in 2017, together with a friend (we were on a J1 visa), with a one-way ticket bought at 1 AM, the plane at 7 AM, no accommodation booked. It was an adventure for me. An adventure where a police car gave us a ride to the nearest metro station because some guy managed to break into my Google Maps account and started following us, while my friend’s bank account was suddenly short of $ 2K. You could see how excited I was during the day in Chicago and how, at 12:30 AM, I didn’t yet fully understand how lucky we got that nobody attacked us.
Yes, everyone can do these kinds of things. However, when done by people with bipolar disorder, they are done extremely spontaneous, in a rush, no second or safety thoughts and the downfall hurts super bad.
Since July 2020, I became more aware of how this energy rollercoaster affects my functionality - thoughts, sleep, self-esteem, creativity, perception, behavior, even my physical health. I have to hit the breaks when I am feeling good and I have to keep moving when I feel like staying still. Long story short, I mostly have to act in opposition to what I am feeling because I can’t, nor should trust my moods and energy levels. Feelings of self-doubt and under-self-estimations are common, but it’s unnatural to distrust my inner fire, especially if it involves something I am passionate about (e.g. working - even if it’s happening at 3 AM on a Sunday). Quite cruel, isn’t it?
I got on so many trains, buses and planes, but I never got lost and, for my brain, the risk of falling is worth taking, because the feeling of adventure is better than any drug can offer. Leaving aside the spontaneous aspect, I had always searched for powerful adrenaline and rush and I found the perfect dosage in travelling. Is this a symptom? Is this who I am? Mental disorder or not, we all struggle with our self-identity and self-image. Talk about it. Make lists. Keep a diary. Say hi.
As for me, not being able to travel is against my nature. Good thing that I am still on the journey of coming to terms with myself.