Just as I wrote this title I thought, "I've done this one before." On checking, I find I have. That one was about Christmas parties; this one is about friends and family.
The thing I hate most about my bipolar condition is the way it makes me think I don't like my friends and family.
When I am in the mania phase I can't bear to be with anyone because everyone is so incredibly stupid! Even my friend Raz, with his genius level mathematical brain and eidetic memory, irritates me because even he is stupid. When I am down I can't even bear my own company, let alone the company of anyone else. I just exist, enduring one moment after another until eventually the great weight of the shackles and chains of depression lifts and I can feel again. Most of the time, I still prefer my own company. It's solitude, not loneliness. And, because I'm a writer, my brain is always occupied with stories and characters. So, in fact, I'm never alone.
My eldest daughter is a gift. She makes a point of hugging me every day and telling me she loves me. I tell her I love her too. I can't feel the love, but I know it is there. She views my brain with tolerant amusement: "Mummy, you do know that most people grow out of playing with their imaginary friends by the time they're - say – eight, don't you?" She regards my weeks (and occasionally months) confined to the sofa with resignation and my highs with pragmatism: "What do we have to do to make sure Mummy is safe from herself?"
But I still feel guilty. Surely it would be better if I had not married and had a family. If I had received my diagnosis earlier, would I have still married? Would I have chosen to have children; especially now I know that this condition has a considerable genetic component?
I can't answer that. It does no good to speculate anyway. I have the blessing of a loving husband and two lovely daughters. I am grateful.
And they have all learned to leave me alone for long periods of time. Yesterday, when I was rebuking my eleven-year-old for having disappeared for four hours without letting me know where she was (in a safe area, I hasten to add, and with two other friends, who were also similarly rebuked by their mothers), she said, "But Mummy – I was being nice to you: I was leaving you to be by yourself!"
Sadly, I can't argue with that. I could wish it were different, but it's not.
A Moodscope member.