Together at the Poles

Michael Ligtenberg: The Bipolar Boomerang


After the very positive feedback I have received here at Bipolar Today, I have decided to continue to share my experiences dealing with my recent diagnosis late in life. This is obviously a personal experience, and how I am coping with Bipolar Disorder as an individual. Today I am writing about a bad moment I have recently been through and am still going through as I write.

Have you ever thrown a rock into the water, or a stick in a park just for the sheer pleasure of throwing something and watching it as it sails through the air and then as it comes back down to earth, as the properties of gravity must dictate? It is both a powerful and powerless sensation. Recently I found a little crooked stick and gave it a mighty heave. I watched it fly through the air, getting smaller, when the light and shadows played on a trick on my eyes. Instead of getting smaller, the stick got bigger and bigger. Then just before getting smacked in the head, it dawned on me in a flash…this was no stick, this was a boomerang.

Water Into Stone

Copyright © 2012 Michael Ligtenberg

How did this happen? I suppose I wasn’t paying enough attention when I picked up that stick. Too bad I didn’t figure this out a week ago, before I started the worst episode in months. I tried, I got hurt, I hurt others, and I feel like a stinking plop of fresh cow manure covered in flies on a hot day. I screamed and yelled until I lost my voice; I drove 800 km, leaving at midnight, then another 800 after a drunken 12 hour break (which to me is a major setback); I had 3 hours sleep in 3 days; I’ve wept like a baby, rocking back and forth senselessly; I’ve insulted my best friend in the world; I hardly ate; then, after 72 hours of hell, I slept for 18 hours.

Yeah, it was a complete emotional eruption of the volcano in my head. However cliché it may be, the volcano is what it truly is. It feels like fire in my head, and I can’t control any of the lava pouring out of my mouth; it fills my ears making me unable to listen; it leaks from my eyes and drips from my nose. I feel like a complete mess, unable to cope or deal. There is no pleasure right now…no music. There are gaps in my memory…fuzzy impressions only. Did I take my meds, or too many??? I’m still hoarse. Some are trying to apologize, others are enraged with me. Even as I write this, I find myself stuck at “C”…trying desperately to control my emotions so I don’t make more mistakes. You know how a lie can breed a whole bunch of lies; well I don’t want an emotion to create a whole whack of emotions which will lead to even more pain and suffering. No matter how invisible our scars may be, they are deep and painful.

Sunset by the Wires

Copyright © 2012 Michael Ligtenberg

So what do I do now? I want to curl up in a ball in my bed and not come out for a long time…but it’s the wrong answer…self-pity won’t get me anywhere. I know all sorts of things I should do…but I feel so weak, and it seems like such a huge undertaking. I want to forget it all…but that would take substance abuse to succeed…and that is no success. I want to forgive…but can’t find the graciousness inside. I want to make amends with my best friend, but I am so afraid. I don’t feel a part of anything right now…in my head I’m not from this world.

One good thing I am doing is writing this blog. It helps me to digest a bad meal. As I think about the event (which is pretty much every waking moment), I try to evaluate how much is the truth, and how much is emotionally skewered. It’s like a round cherry pie jigsaw puzzle; all the pieces look the same. One thing I can see is that I am way too emotionally invested to adequately solve this problem right now…and too physically exhausted. I need to rest and give myself some time to gather my strength. I need to reestablish the positive rhythm I had before the incident. So I suppose this is my short-term goal.

Forested Path

Copyright © 2012 Michael Ligtenberg

I also am looking at the bad choices I made before the episode. I put myself into a volatile family situation which I have never handled well in the past…so why was I so overly optimistic that it could be different this time? I put too much on my shoulders by expecting I could drive for days on end and not be wearied physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I should have expected that I would be vulnerable and made plans accordingly, with a clear escape route in my head in order to remove myself.

I am not well today…far from it. But two days ago I was a complete wreck, and yesterday was a better day. Today is better than yesterday. So I must hope and believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

12 Responses to Michael Ligtenberg: The Bipolar Boomerang

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Thank God for people like you who are willing to share. I could have written that story – many times over. I also was diagnosed late in life, and somehow feel ripped off that I wasn’t diagnosed when my first depressive episode hit me in high school.

    Again, thanks for sharing. And if he/she is your best friend in the world, give them a few days and make a call. I find those nearest to us that love us the most will forgive.

    • Hi Leslie,

      Thank you for your feedback; I always find it both stimulating and reassuring.

      I know that feeling of being “ripped off”. I always wonder how my life would have been different had I been diagnosed as a teen…how much pain could have been avoided?

      And as a postscript, she did forgive me…and our understanding of each other has simply grown. I also found the means to forgive. But this is a battle that never ends…

      Stay well

  • As my wife tells me “Life will not always be this bad, hang on!”
    Thanks for sharing. I am printing this off for my ‘bad times’ journal.
    Sending up prayers for you…

    • Hi Richard,

      Thank you very much for your prayers. I did manage to dig myself out of the pit…and move on, hopefully, with a better knowledge of myself.

      A supporting wife must be wonderful help.

      Stay well

  • I have been going through something very similar myself recently. An arguement with my husbands best friend which got out of hand and left me in a million pieces. I am still trying to put my marriage back together as this time for the first time he sided with his friend over me. I have tried doing what we all end up doing eventually which is apologising and hoping people will understand and forgive but this has been met with more abuse followed by silence.
    I too was only diagnosed late in life (6 months ago and I’m almost 40). For years I blamed my depressive episodes on an unhappy childhood before finally being diagnosed but it seems now that i am no longer allowed to be upset or have my feeling hurt or have an opinion that is different to others without those around me dismissing me or it as just a bipolar moment. Not sure which was easier to deal with, them and me not knowing or what is happening now.
    Anyway, sorry I meant to post lots of heartwarming, dont worry things will improve, stay strong and always know your not alone type comments but i got sidetracked. Anyway, stay strong etc etc etc and more importantly stay true to yourself.

    • Hi Clare,

      Thank you for your encouragement. I have come through another “bipolar moment” successfully. My friend was gracious and took the time to understand what happened…she is a great lady.

      I can understand your pain and suffering over the incident you are living. I cannot give you advice, but I can tell you my experience which is that of the 4 long-term relationships I have had in the last 32 years all have failed…or should I say none survived my illness. I don’t think there are “bipolar moments”, only episodes. When you are Bipolar, every moment is a bipolar moment really. In the last 6 months I have discovered that some friends, who I thought were very close, didn’t want or couldn’t take that step to understand and make some minor accommodations to aid me. I call these poisonous relationships, and I refuse to continue to invest emotionally in them.

      I hope that the issues can be worked out between your husband, his best friend and yourself…and if I may permit myself, “stay strong…and more importantly stay true to yourself.”

      Best wishes

  • It really is important to pour out the emotional wreckage onto paper, or a virtual piece of paper. It is cathartic. I have always found that my creative moments are tied to my manic episodes. Thus, I have a love-hate relationship with my mania. I love the creative energy, but I hate the havoc that such episodes can wreak on my life. Thanks for sharing your experience. I know that doing so can feel as if you are pouring out a portion of your innermost soul. Very personal and intimate. We have to advocate for our illness or we will continue to be marginalized.

    • Hi Jeni,

      I completely agree with you. This is a very cathartic exercise for me…it really helps to get a grasp on myself. I also find myself bursting with creative energy when I am manic, but probably like you, I tend to ignore everything and everyone else.

      I have discovered something incredible here on Bipolar Today, the commonality of our experiences. Being in a small isolated community, it has become my support group, and in a support group you must pour it out to get anything back. Thank you very much for your support.

      Stay well

  • Well written Michael, although distressing, what you had to go through, you put into words what so many of us feel over and over again.

    Makes it a little easier to know, that if others can get through their similar kinds of pain….heck, “Maybe I can too”

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Sorry that I have not responded earlier…it has been a while that I haven’t looked at my blogs. I am happy to help put into words the trials we go through. We are many suffering alone and by sharing our stories we get a grip on our own.
      Take good care,
      Michael

  • I am just now reading this blog. For years now I have been battling this. Not knowing what it is or most importantly(too me anyways) not being able to describe it to anyone; the things I feel going on in my head. I have gone from doctor to doctor trying to discover what is happening to me. I have just in the last year been diagnosed with Bipolar II but still, in my head, I just knew it was something else. It has just been in the last few days that I have come to the realization and the truth. I am Bipolar. Happy, creative, with purpose one day. Then with seemingly no warning my brain crashes. I feel like a corrupted computer(process data..data corrupt…process data..data corrupt) “What is happening to me?” I kept asking myself. I need to understand what is happening to me. Now I know and my question now is “How can I manage this?” One positive thing is knowing that there are others and I am not alone. I going to continue reading. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Malcolm,
    Again I am sorry to respond so far down the line. I hope things are going better for you…For me, the last couple of years have been hard, both with the disorder and physically as well. I am fairly stable right now with the proper medication and therapy. But I still have issues…

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Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RP (Qualifying), CCC

Daniel Bader, Ph.D., is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and Canadian Certified Counsellor specializing in bipolar disorder, offering in-person psychotherapy in Kitchener, Ontario, and online and telephone psychotherapy within Canada.

To book an appointment with Daniel, please visit his Psychology Today profile.