Your Life as an Outsider: The Bipolar Question of the Week
Fifteen years ago, soon after I was diagnosed, I wrote an essay, When I First Knew I Was Different. You can read the piece on my website. In the piece, I describe, at age seven, hopping on the back of a reclining steer and suddenly watching the horizon spin.
My life was innocent and carefree back then. But I had experienced a taste of things to come.
You can also read another piece, Alone, Against the World, that describes my failure in adjusting to a hostile and alien environment at all of age 12. That was when I experienced my first deep depressions.
In my memoir, I joke about how I long for aliens to abduct me and return me to the planet of my birth, one where I actually fit in.
I think most of us learn we are outsiders at a very young age. I’m not sure how much bipolar feeds into it. For the vast majority of us (myself included), bipolar manifests much later, typically in the transition to adulthood. But, in retrospect, the early warning signs pop up well before. Perhaps our teachers viewed us as, well, a bit odd.
Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the rigors of growing up feed into our bipolar. Yes, we may have the genes, but in the right environment - one more nurturing and accepting - maybe those genes never get switched on. In other words: If our teachers don’t see us as odd, maybe the bipolar never happens.
With other people, something different may occur: Life is going along just fine. Suddenly, it’s like a switch has flipped. A childhood stolen. End of innocence.
One way or another, though, we find our way to outsider status. After all, we hardly seek help when things are going right. And there we are, our lives in pieces, strangers in a strange land, trying to find our way home.
Question: **Tell us about some of your experiences as an outsider. How old were you when you first realized you weren’t quite like the others? **
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.