I've just been informed today is Bipolar Awareness Day. I did not know this. And I'm bipolar.
I've never been big on awareness days; to me, they may as well be called "feel bad about something specific" days. I also find them to be peculiar because it's as if society as a whole is granting a specific 24 hour period during which slightly more people are expected to care about something they probably don't care about the rest of the year. Not much seems to come from awareness days, aside from higher likelihoods of persons specifically affected by whatever ailment or societal woe the day is set aside to whatever the less happy version of celebrate is, other than increased odds that awareness will lead to money moving around in a way that helps the people the day is for.
I suppose I should cash in on that, but I'll genuinely be shocked if anyone contributes money to my show, for the simple fact people prefer to keep their money, and few people like me enough to want me to have theirs. I've never been a fan of asking for money period; which is ironic because outside of writing, I think it's fair to say most of the work I've done involves doing just that -- convincing people to give, take, or otherwise exchange money. I always did and still do find the process of convincing people to do things, especially things that are hard to convince them to do, even if it is in their best interests to do so, or it's at least fully justifiable to do.
So with my show, I want to do it for free, and will continue to do so, for as long as I can do it. That said, when the purpose of all this work I put in is to reach people who need hear and read the words I'm uniquely able to assemble on the topics that matter. In my case, that target audience is most specifically people living with not so easy to live with mental conditions, and the people living with the people with the not so easy to live with mental conditions, whom can to some extent too go mad by proximity! (disclaimer: mental conditions are not contagious).
I feel I am failing to do that, at least to the extent I had hoped to, and still hope to... and I suspect that is at least in some part due to the fact that while I take great pride in my work - artistic, academic, or otherwise - I doubt with great magnitude whether it will be well received by anyone, regardless of "objective quality". And the prospect of dealing with, more consciously, the possibility I'm in a sense throwing my life away (or a lot of it) working on shit that doesn't matter to anyone is a daunting proposition indeed.
How many girls cancel the date after googling me and learning I'm apparently some brand of crazy?
How many jobs do some of my posts, videos, and written works permanently bar me from, provided any reasonable level of HR diligence?
How much time and effort is wasted producing a product for which there is little to no identifiable demand for?
These are questions I try to avoid asking myself, right up there next to How have we not accidentally blown the world up with nuclear weapons, and is that still to come? What is consciousness and why am I aware of my own to begin with? and What the hell happened in that last scene of "The Sopranos"?
I avoid asking myself these questions because if I were to stop doing this work, regardless of whether 12 million people or 12 people care about it, I would lose my own sense of purpose. I would leave what is either a bestowed upon me or self-imposed commitment unfulfilled. This isn't something I typically share, but when I was I believe 13, I made a promise to God, or whatever force or being was out there capable of intervening in human affairs, and presumably the creator and ultimate referee of them, that if I were to endure the still not quite possible to articulate hell going on inside my own mind and body, and one day overcome my invisible demons there seemed to be no name for, I would figure out what it was and tell the world about it, so there didn't have to be any more people like me out there - left suffering in silence, because there is no apparent means of salvation, and there is so little apparent will on a collective level to do anything about it.
I pledged that if I didn't drown, I would raise a fleet of rescue ships and return to the stormy waters so that anyone looking up praying for understanding and escape from their mysterious misery would find that prayer granted.
Since my prayer was never answered, I decided I would be the answer.
Fast forward a decade and a half and I seem to have survived. So I am trying to fulfill my end of that bargain with God.
I find it hard to understand my true motives for doing anything in life; both because they seem to be in constant flux to a degree, and because I am increasingly aware that humans in general - myself surely included - are all liars, and we lie to themselves most of all. We tell stories, to others and to ourselves, to explain our actions and inactions. In these stories we are always either the hero or the victim, and oftentimes both.
We concoct elaborate narratives to explain to anyone listening or spying on us or that will hear what we're saying by some third party at some hypothetical point and time. These narratives are built nearly instantaneously and instinctively in the mind of the adult, and quickly understood and adopted by the mind of the child. We hide our true intentions for doing things, and typically avoid defining what our true intentions are to begin with. All we know is we have to do our best to fit some image of ourselves that is a combination of what we perceive to be our own decisions about what we want to become, and societal expectations foisted upon us, and influenced by many factors outside or at least on the periphery of our control - to include most apparently: our public and private personalities, our physical appearances and capacity to alter it, and the perpetually changing laws, norms, and rules that form the framework within which we are left to live.
So I'll be the first to admit that deep down what I'm probably seeking is what most all of us are seeking, or so I'm told... love. Whether I care to admit it or not, it's probably fair to presume that I do much of what I do in the hope that transforming an ostensible disadvantage (being born with a mental condition capable of, and at times seemingly intent on, destroying one's own life and well being... as well as those of others unfortunate enough to be stuck with them) into an advantage. In my story of myself, I am a hero confronting the demons within - publicly and openly - so that anyone watching can recognize proof that even if born cursed, you can live cured. I want to let the interested see beneath the facades that would normally prohibit an individual from revealing the truth of their struggle... I want anyone like me to know they are not alone, and that if this one guy can make it through it, and achieve some semblance of success, maybe they can to.
Then, if I'm useful enough, to enough people, or at least the right people, or even just one specific person in need of what solidarity and inspiration and wisdom I can proffer, I can stop feeling so alone in this world and know what it's like to have peace of mind, which I have been led to believe tends to rest on a foundation of love.
Or maybe that's just a story too.
Maybe love is what I say I want because I know that's what people want me to want. Maybe I really just want to be a hedonist - contented instead by constant thrill and conquest, delighting in the pleasurable extremes and lamenting the inevitable negative ones. Maybe if whatever the particular brand of love I claim to seek was behind one door, and behind the other was a sparkling red Ferrari that hasn't even come out yet, with a glove compartment full of exotic pleasure inducing drugs, a trunk full of cash in all denominations, a stereo full of Kanye West, an unlimited Chipotle gift card in the visor, and the attractive random woman I posted in the photo that probably got you to read this in the first place in a short skirt and a long jacket with a wink in her eye blowing me a kiss, holding the deed to a mountaintop mansion with a hottub with an outdoor fireplace in the middle of it, I'd choose that door instead.
In a perfect world, maybe I could have both!
That's the thing about life people. You never know. And there's always more of it. Until there's not. And even after what we know to be life reaches its inevitable conclusion - be it in ten years or ten thousand years (don't underestimate the potential of technology mixed with the general desire to prolong death as long as humanly possible, as so many seem to possess) - I suspect there's... well, let's just say it wouldn't shock me if I died and woke up somewhere or someone else, or some shit like that.
The point is consistency of equilibrium is what I think most of us seek, when we are not instead seeking something more, or something more specific - like true love, or a life of royalty. What most people want on the day to day, I believe, is very simple: consistency. They hope things get a little better, hope they don't get a little worse, and do all they can to avoid the chance things will get a lot worse because of something they did or didn't do that day. For most people, life is a rather insular experience I suspect, and when they do care about something, or at least profess to care about something outside themselves, that is a phenomenon motivated by something within.
There's a reason universities, libraries, parks, and any center of relatively public accessibility have the names of people no one knows plastered all over the place, along with a prestigious description of what the thing is. The "Jonathan T. Abernathy Rest and Reflection Summit" might be a bench with some flowers planted around it, that serve as Mr. Abernathy's legacy. It's the same idea as carving your name into a tree. There's some deep sense of satisfaction, or at least subtle sense of something positive, that is felt by the person whose name remains. There is great solace to the achiever to be found in at least the possibility others will remember them when they are gone. They can close the casket on themselves with less of a tremble in their hands if there is some semi-permanent indication their life mattered. It's worth donating tens of thousands of dollars to a university to have a bench named after you, because it's a physical declaration of value; it's proof of importance.
I suspect that kind of thing is the kind of thing that would quiet the voices of self-doubt and shame that are consistent undertones in my mind, regardless of how much effort I apply, how much work I put in, or how little apparent recompense I have to point to as proof of mattering.
I'm pretty sure that's the word for it. So in conclusion, as I wrap up this... whatever you want to call it, I'm going to take a moment to tell the world I want to be recognized. I am going to use this day of the year, that whoever is authorized to claim a day of the year seem to have claimed for bipolar people, to recognize myself for all that I do to keep my head above the ebb and flow of my brain chemicals, as someone living with bipolar disorder. I wish to congratulate myself on not only surviving a uniquely troubled youth. I'd like to take a moment to thank myself for at least trying to do good on my oath to go back for the forgotten and unnoticed souls out there enduring their own private hells, and heavens but perhaps never knowing the luxury of finding firm footing on earth. I'd like to say to myself that the work I do does matter, even if I come short of doing it in a way that has the degree of impact I crave. I'm going to go ahead and commend myself on the decision to face my demons head on, and in a public arena, because that takes a specific brand of courage. I want to let myself know that I am not alone, and that there are others like me - maybe even some reading this right now, whenever that now is - who will comb through my discussions, ramblings, and otherwise hard to define creative and academic-ey works and find something of value to take with them, and hopefully build upon, furthering a chain of hope and improvement for others.
I give unto myself a high five for trying, whether I find the strength to hi five myself back or not.
And to everyone else out there living with and dying from bipolar disorder, I wish you a happy (and sad) bipolar awareness day!
If you would like to extend my reach, you can and I hope will do so right now in any to all of the following ways:
- Contribute to my work directly, in name or anonymously.
- Buy my book "Glass Black Box", and/or review it on Amazon.
- Subscribe to my podcast if you haven't already, and/or review it on iTunes or wherever you listen to it.
- Follow me on twitter, facebook, Instagram, all that shit.
- Repost any of my content on your social media accounts and/or link someone to some of my work.
- Spend one concentrated minute asking yourself "How could I help this guy if I really wanted to?" Do that, or some diet version of it.
- Suggest to someone interesting, influential, funny (and ideally famous!) that you know to contact me about coming on as a guest.
- Do absolutely nothing.
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