March 31, 2009

Family traditions

I've been talking to my uncle J. on the phone over the course of the last few days. He has been in and out of mental hospitals and rehab, did crack for years, and a whole host of other things not worth going into at the moment. He is also bipolar, and this is largely why I wanted to talk to him. He is one of only two people who I know that deals with this issue, and I crave understanding on this topic. He and I have a difficult history, but I needed to know more about his experiences, his diagnosis, his medication, how he feels right now.

It has been enlightening and terrifying and disturbing.

On one hand, he was very kind and supportive and reassuring. He understood things that I do and think and feel that not many people understand at this time. But hearing that he has to change his medication every couple of years because his body gets used to them, and hearing his descriptions of feeling full of rage and confusion and being locked in a room in a hospital were scary.

It's also apparent that he's not particularly well-controlled by his medication right now. "Believe me," he said. "You have an advantage over everyone! You're better than everyone else!"

"What?" I asked in bewilderment.

"Some people look at this like a disease or a disability or a problem that has to be dealt with. But it's not! You know how shit works! You know how life is! You get to experience it to the fullest--the highest of the highs that no one else will ever know, and the low, low, lows, too! It's an advantage, and you just have to start looking at it that way," he explained.

I sighed and said, "I know what you mean, and there are times that I love that I'm so emotional and so changeable and so...intense. But I'm exhausted. I just want some stability. I just want some quiet. I would like to have a little bit better of an idea of how I'm going to feel from one moment to the next."

He had a hard time understanding this.

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