World Bipolar Day: The Savage Spirit

by Marcus Harrison Green

In honor of World Bipolar Day, we are publishing this 2019 personal reflection. The purpose of World Bipolar Day (WBD) is to bring more awareness to bipolar conditions and to eliminate social stereotypes attached to those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Overall, nearly 2.3 million people in the United State are currently diagnosed with the condition, but the number of people impacted by the disorder is most likely greater. You can find more information about WBD and bipolar disorder here.

Nothing fights more savagely than the human spirit.

I traveled all the way to the land where semi-automatic pistols are raffled for five bucks, billiards clubs incongruently blare Fox News from TV screens and Ice Cube from jukeboxes, and five-alarm acid reflux WhatABurgers are served whole — also known as Fort Worth, TX — to affirm that fact.

After a frightening experience in my hometown of Seattle, so different from this expanse, this setting was a strange, necessary piece to getting back to myself; the only semblance of home were the family I stayed with and the occasional mini-binge watch of Grey’s Anatomy.

The anonymity it offered was also critical; I needed to shed notoriety and its unrealistic demands.

In Fort Worth, I got to be stripped of any biography, or history, or obligation to do anything but simply “be.”

It provided the perfect healing hideaway for my mind, body, and heart in the aftermath of a manic depressive episode associated with Bipolar Disorder (BPD). Scrambling my neurochemistry, it had left my brain feeling like it’d been wrung in acid — and some friendships didn’t fare much better.

Leaving town offered a place for my brain to normalize — and for me to become a savant in all things bipolar. It also provided time for a civil war to wage conclusively — between my mind and my spirit.

It’s enough that the world constantly tears at your sense of self and identity to implant its own preferences inside of you. It’s nearly unbearable when your mind does it. When, without prompting, it screams that you are worthless, broken, abhorrent, loathsome. It runs a marathon of madness in your head that you’re unable to halt.

It’s what a bipolar brain like the one I was born with (and just recently began taking responsibility for) has the tendency to do if untreated with medication or therapy (or if resetting from an episode). Like diabetics unable to internally regulate their blood sugar, someone with untreated BPD can’t regulate their brain chemistry enough at times to stop such thoughts.

It’s the reason that nearly 15% of people with BPD commit suicide, while nearly half make an attempt, and 80% contemplate it. My aunt Sheila was part of the first group. I was part of the second, prior to my treatment. And after my episode, I didn’t want to stumble back into the third.

Because when your mind is a boomerang of torment — cycling from peace to harrowing thoughts — there’s nothing you can do except give it time, pray to a god you’re unsure of, learn all you can about your brain, and hope your medication will eventually return it to normal so you can function properly.

When will you be better? When will you feel like yourself?

Maybe a month, maybe three months, maybe a year. The doctor offers little certainty.

All you know is that your mind’s betrayed you again. Its spell has turned everything inside of you sterile. Where there was poetry there’s now a requiem.

But such protracted moments also reveal your champion, the only thing still burning inside you. Your spirit.

It’s the thing that battles for who you are. It reminds you of the resiliency in how you’ve survived abuse in your life leveled by others and yourself. That you’ve repeatedly adopted the poise required when dealing with the chaos thrown at you constantly in life.

It shows you a man with a megawatt personality that attracts the devotion of friends who will never fully understand him because they don’t possess his brain chemistry, but accept him unconditionally.

And that you’re not a saint nor divine, but spectacularly complex.

As much as you’ve lost, you have a storehouse stocked with the grace of unexpected second chances, the harmony of fresh hellos, and roads newly opened to you. And that the only way to move toward the future is to let go of the rope dragging the past, as painful as it is.

Then one day, without notice, the darkness passes. The thoughts cease, the cacophony of torment is expelled. You are left there, your truest self. Your spirit is triumphant.

And life finally begins again.

Life begins anew.

Marcus Harrison Green is the publisher of the South Seattle Emerald. Growing up in South Seattle, he experienced firsthand the impact of one-dimensional stories on marginalized communities, which taught him the value of authentic narratives. After an unfulfilling stint in the investment world during his twenties, Marcus returned to his community with a newfound purpose of telling stories with nuance, complexity, and multidimensionality with the hope of advancing social change. This led him to become a writer and found the Emerald. He was named one of Seattle’s most influential people by Seattle Magazine in 2016 and was awarded 2020 Individual Human Rights Leader by the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

Featured illustration by Vladimir Verano

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