Dear Loyal Reader,
I had a whopping 3 hours of sleep last night before I woke up for an hour and half. Managed to get another 3 hours after that. The math is simple, but 6 hours of sleep is not enough for my mind to stay clear. According to my fandango Fitbit, over the last 7 days, I’ve had an average of 7.5 hours of sleep. Pretty good, right? Most of you are probably wishing you got that much sleep. Here is my problem. I need 8 or 9 uninterrupted hours relatively consistently otherwise Mike appears.
Previous entries have revealed that one of my bipolar superpowers is seeing people. Sure, we all see real people everyday. However, I see people you cannot. Yes. I see dead people or invisible people or figments of my imagination or ghosts. Call them what you will, but I see things that you don’t. Nope. They don’t talk to me. They just pop up or pop out. Usually at night. While I’m driving. And it’s just plain creepy.
I live in a gated neighborhood. John, a real man, occupies the guard shack from 6 am to 7 pm 5 days a week. I like John. His wife drops him off and picks him up every Monday through Friday like clockwork. They love Walt Disney World. The back of their white minivan is covered in Disney stickers. He sports professional gate-guard attire, which consists of a white shirt with a badge, black pants, and black boots. In cooler temperatures he wears a matching jacket and black baseball hat. John looks like Elvis and even impersonates Elvis when not bravely guarding white suburbia. I learned this from a good friend who has bonded with John over their mutual love and respect for “The King.” There is also an Elvis silhouette plastered on their minivan’s tailgate. Scary isn’t? The amount I know about the gate guard. I promise I’m not a stalker. Just observant. I have to be for my sanity.
Mike sporadically works the gate between the hours of 7 pm and midnight. His uniform matches John’s with one exception; Mike wears a black train conductor’s hat. Like John’s, Mike’s uniform looks very official and professional. I can’t tell you what he looks like because, unlike John, Mike has no face. Sometimes, he is just a head and torso. Other times he’s just a pair of legs. I’m also unable to give you fun facts about Mike, because (if you haven’t figured it out yet) Mike ISN’T real. I named him Mike because for a year that’s what I called John. (Yes. John never corrected me.)
Mike’s been in my life for the better part of 6 years. I think. Remember? He works sporadically. It’s difficult to keep track of real people let alone invisible ones. I have had other invisible guests appear to me: my dead uncle, a green torso and face apparition, a cemetery full of bodies hovering over graves, an old woman with a walker on the side of the road, a dead body wrapped in a garbage bag in the middle of the road, and a woman creeping in the shadows on the side of a house. Mike is the only one who returns.
Sure, we all see things or see one thing and it turns out to be another. For example, maybe you think a bug is on your arm but instead it’s a hair or a piece of fuzz. Perhaps that puppy in the road is really just an old brown cardboard box. That happens to me, too, quite a bit in addition to the “people.” The difference is the people pop out and I react. I swerve to miss Mike, come to a stop, look for him, and he’s gone. The woman in the house shadows forced me to stop, backup, and look for her. They are there until I blink and they vanish. Unlike the fuzz or the brown box there is never any proof of their existence.
I used to think the visions, hallucinations, apparitions, whatever they are, were proof I was special. They chose me, Super Jen, with bipolar vision. Having bipolar disorder isn’t always a curse. There are perks, like superhero powers, especially when you’re manic.
A counselor told me that bipolar people are some of the most intelligent, creative, gifted, and talented individuals in the world. She’s not wrong. (A simple Google search, “famous bipolar people,” will bring up all kinds of artists, actors, musicians, comedians, and athletes.) I just never considered myself to be any those adjectives. I didn’t write for a number of years because I thought mania was the root of the creativity, quality, and productivity of my writing. When I finally digested the facts that God wasn’t taking to me, that I wasn’t the next Jesus, that I wasn’t magical, that I had no special powers, it utterly devastated me. If I was none of those things, then I probably wasn’t a writer either. I was a nobody in the masses destined for nothing.
Deciding to write again and to share it in a public forum is not tantamount to a manic whim. The decision was logical, rational, and sound. My writings exemplify my progress in the process of learning how to live with bipolar disorder, not my manic tendencies or symptoms. Writing this blog has opened a door to a room full of other people like me and we are special. We all share the desires to inspire, motivate, and uplift others who fight our same battles and educate others who perpetuate the stigmas associated with mental illness.
One author wrote about her belief that she would be someone super successful and how her bipolar diagnoses shook that belief to its core. I can relate. After I accepted my bipolar diagnosis, I wondered how much of me was me and how much of me was a symptom of bipolar. (Upon my first bipolar diagnosis I replied, “I can’t be that. Crazy people are that.”) Fact is, we are successful. We are superheroes. Most people with mental illness do all the same things those without it do-work, play, raise families- but those with mental illness silently battle demons at the same time.
Unfortunately, Mike is a part of me. He’s no longer cool and fun but rather scary and frustrating. I know he’s not real. His presence is not proof of a super power; it’s a sign that I’m approaching an unbalanced state and a powerful message that I need sleep.
Apparently I also see invisible cats. An orange tabby cat just appeared on my night stand. I don’t own an orange cat, and I’m in a hotel room. I assure you I’m not crazy…yet. It’s just another warning. If I don’t get some solid sleep tonight, then I might be just plain crazy by the weekend.