All Aboard the Bipolar Express

Bipolar Logic: A Column About Being Bipolar Type II

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My name is Danielle Belton and I am Bipolar. But don’t worry. I don’t introduce myself in person that way.

I always say being Bipolar isn’t an excuse for my sometimes odd to deplorable behavior, it’s an explanation. One shouldn’t be odd or rude or take everything personal or melt into tears for random reasons or stop talking you – sometimes for months – and never tell you why. That’s not really acceptable behavior and I own that it’s not acceptable. But it’s rooted in me having a brain that works slightly different from other brains. In some ways, my brain is wonderful. It’s a flexible, open, ever changing thing that likes new ideas, ways and traditions. I am, above all, pretty accepting in most areas. I am creative and consider myself to be some sort of intellectual. This part of me, I adore. I think it is great.

The other part, not so much.

If I am honest, there have always been two Danielles. One is the one I adore, the ambitious, career-climbing, creative, calculating beast who gets me out of every jam. The other is the one who, on a biweekly basis, is trying to kill me and has been actively trying to kill me since 2001.

When I say “kill,” I mean it in the most literal sense. There is a self-destruct switch in my head that was turned on in 2001 when I went through a horrid, “youthful indiscretion” starter marriage that lasted all of nine months before it imploded. I believe I was always Bipolar, but it was that marriage and its ultimate destruction that unleashed the darker side of my persona, giving it the power it craved. This is the side of me that did not like me, that thought I was worthless and didn’t deserve to live and it finally had a voice. And that voice was a determined one.

Living with that reality, that the greatest risk to myself is myself is sobering. Knowing that depending on the seasons, work stressors, interpersonal drama, whatever, anything could set me off course at any time has consistently been draining. It is my personal struggle that I’m always dealing with. It’s just beneath the surface of everything I do.

It’s the part of me that wants to spend the rent money on shoes. That forces to make me take a sick day because I can’t get out of bed from crying. It’s what’s kept me single for more than a decade. Sure, I date, but nothing and no one has stuck, largely because I won’t let them. Outside of my career, which has consistently kept me going, I’m a glorious hot mess.

Being a hot mess though has never stopped me from doing anything, mind you. Whether that’s pursuing my career as a writer or moving thousands of miles away to start over and make new friends, I make it work. I’m not afraid of anything.

Well, actually, that’s a lie. I’m afraid of a lot of things, but all those things are myself. But I’m tired of that getting in the way too.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type II in 2005, but I’ve known something was wrong since at least the 90s. When I was going through the worst of it in my 20s – a period marked by one impulsive failed marriage and few hospital stints – I stopped dating. Not because I didn’t have romantic interests, but because it was the most responsible thing I could do. My brief but awful marriage left me unnaturally angry and my grappling with mental illness required nearly all my time and energy. To date would have meant subjecting someone to my constant vacillating mood swings which went from high spirited agitation to the most morbid of sorrows.

But after more than a decade of working “me,” I’m ready to get out there again. I lost my 20s to being sick and I’ve spent my 30s furiously playing catch up. My career has flourished. So it’s time for my love life to get some TLC. The only thing in the way is me.

And that would not be a big deal if it weren’t for the other me who wants to make like a dirty bomb and blow up the spot, radiate the earth and make sure nothing can ever grow back.

But the side of me that loves everything won’t let that happen. I think. No, I know it won’t. Or, more like it, I won’t let it. There’s no easy way out and nothing to do but go through it. And that’s what I do, that’s what I write about and that’s who I am.

So who wants to date a glorious hot mess? I’m lovingly needy but a lot of fun and I can just barely stand myself half the time, but I promise, my future disaster, it will be worth the while. I may not always make sense, but there’s a logic to it. It’s Bipolar Logic, but I swear, to me, I’m making all the sense.

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