I like to think that I'm funny. I work really hard to be funny, and I like making jokes, and sometimes I have even been paid to make jokes, so okay, sure. I am funny.
I grew up around a funny family who used humour to do what most of us use humour to do: feel better about ourselves and ignore actual, real, shitty, life. In elementary school, I didn't feel like I fit in until I broke the curse-word taboo and started getting laughs, and then when those laughs dried up in high school (because the currency was "being cool"), I told everybody I was going to kill myself so I'd feel wanted. Validated. Like somebody cared.
And they did! Lots of people, like my parents, and teachers, and my therapist, who took one look at my anti-depressant prescription and said, "You don't need these." She was right. I wasn't depressed. I was a teenager, and I was sad, and I felt lonely, and I was also bipolar. But we didn't know that yet, because good luck diagnosing that when you're 15. So instead, I went to therapy once a month, switched schools, and tried not to feel like my sense of humour made me weird.
It made me very weird. And it wasn't until I was in my early 20s did I start to feel like it was weird in a good way (minus around my best friends who were always like, "Everyone else is an idiot, and they can get fucked.") My early 20s. How fucked up is that?! That's almost 10 years.
I moved out when I was 25 -- so now we're actually at 10 years -- when the bipolar symptoms began moving in like a thick fog. For days I'd think I was a genius. A total, unfuckwithable genius who sent paragraph and page-long pitches to editors I barely knew, and rattled off opinions like I was a badly-written Sorkin character. Other days, I'd just want to stay in bed. I started spending money at an alarming rate, telling myself "money comes" because I was convinced my talent would swoop in and save me from getting myself over $20 000 in debt in less than a year.
And I also drank. I drank a lot, and I hid it like I hid everything else. I liked to drink with a cocktail of sleep-aids, because otherwise my mind would be racing, and I'd sleep for a few hours before bursting into tears because I was so frustrated.
I lost my apartment. I couldn't afford to make rent, and I couldn't afford anything else (but wine! Always wine!), and I moved home, and that's when it got even worse. I quit jobs because someone made a mistake. I severed ties with people for no reason. I catalogued my life as though I was a celebrity, blessing the masses with my company, because I was getting more and more manic.
And I cried a lot, and slept when I could, and felt like shit. I can't even tell you how shitty I felt because there's actually no way to articulate it. I didn't want to die, but I felt like I was completely out of control, because I was, and that shit is scary.
And of course, no one knew. I told no one. I acted fine, just like I still do, because I don't really like to talk about this kind of shit. If I do talk about it, I'm removed. I can promise you that when I'm telling you these stories in person, I'm an arm's length away. Those emotions have been catalogued and put away. They're not for anyone but me and close friends and my therapist. But I think it's still important to talk because otherwise, it's just more and more of the same.
If friends made mention of going to therapy, I'd quickly say that I'd been but I was fine and didn't need to go anymore but they should go by all means they should go, but I don't need it, do you hear me? Here, would you like a joke? Then one night, after a manic four days, I crashed, and cried for about three, and finally said to my Mom -- waking her up, at home, because that's where I had to live -- that I needed to go to the doctor soon.
So I did. And I was diagnosed bipolar II, and I was put on meds, and I thought I was fine -- joke joke joke. I wrote, 26 days after being diagnosed, that I knew there was a long way to go, but I felt fine. Looking back, I see how naive that is, but the last thing anyone wants to hear is, "It'll take a year to get stable." But joke joke joke. I kept joking. I kept making jokes about it and around it and all the time. I was fine. Because if I could just keep everybody laughing, I was okay, you couldn't see me. All this, and jokes too. Because if I could make it funny, it was a little less real.
I still make it funny, but it's been two years, and hey -- look. I'm writing about it on the Internet. Even though my psychiatrist -- who I never have to see again thank Christ -- told me not to tell anybody because I wouldn't get a job. That man is the perfect example of why we should be talking about it. Here's what happened to me when I decided to get actual, real, life help.
- I no longer feel like the ground I'm on is about to come crashing down -- or shoot up to space
- I can budget and spend like a real person
- I feel feelings, but like, normal adult feelings. (They're really great! It's nice not to be so overwhelmed all the time.)
- I take my medication twice a day
- I work faster, my ideas are clearer, I am confident in what I do, as opposed to spending four-five days convinced I was better than Kanye West (without his talent)
- My jokes are better (I think -- like, can I say this? Do I sound like a dick? Probably!)
- I joke to make people laugh, not to hide something about myself
- More exciting: I quit drinking
- I like waking up and being an actual person -- like, I actually enjoy being alive
- Many other things, including not either being a Queen Bitch or so anxious that leaving the house is a fucking production
- I feel like ...me?
I wish I'd known two years ago that things would've gotten better, but fuck: that shit is scary. "Hello, I feel insane." Nope. I'd much rather joke about crying in my car because LOLOLOL
Except, no. It's not that. It's Marge Simpson's dad as a flight attendant screaming "Don't look at me." That's what not talking about your mental health and using jokes to cover it up is. You will still be funny if you get help. You will still be cool, and valuable, and you. You will be the you you're supposed to be as opposed to the you that's being influenced by this massive thing. And yeah! It takes time. That's why you've got to take mental health as seriously as you do diabetes or arthritis. You wouldn't talk shit about someone taking insulin, so someone talking shit about anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, etc. is more than royally fucked.
Health is health. And joking about it makes it easier, of course. But as soon as it becomes a mask, you're trapped. If you're funny, you are funny. That is who you are. This feeling you have? This other thing? It's what threatening to rob you of yourself. And only a true piece of shit would ever cast judgement or shade onto you or anyone for getting help and getting their shit on lock.
And you, my friend, are not a piece of shit. So let's make a joke to lighten the mood here, but know that after you do, it's also okay to need to take some time and make some tea and talk to someone who can help.
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