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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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BRUTALLY FRANK: An open letter from someone with bipolar disorder

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By Frank Baraan IV

Dear World,

We all suffer from stress & cope with it in different ways. And this pandemic, if I am being honest, has hit me hard in ways I could never have imagined. It has exacerbated the demons I have been battling with for a huge part of my life.

And I need all the prayers I could get. I need all the support I could get–without any judgment.

I am 37 years old, but despite my age, I still feel, for the most part, an imposter – a child playing the role of an adult. Outwardly, it looks like there is nothing I could ask for more – but inside, I feel hollow, empty, and sometimes, I feel dead.
This is what the other face of bipolar disorder looks like – depression.

As I write this, I am feeling all these tidal wave of emotions, mostly negative. I feel my entire body being filled with this overwhelming and prevailing thought—this overriding, singular, obsessive-compulsive thought running through my mind.

One overarching question that all people who have gone through this — or going through this now is asking themselves: What is the point of being alive—of living?

Today, I have come to face reality and looked at it directly in the eyes. No more sweeping the problem under the rug; no more self-medicating with powerful drugs; no more getting a false sense of security through social media validation with retweets and likes; no more using of credit cards to impusively buy books, furniture, or gadgets; no more running of businesses that once served as my source of joy and pride.

Today, I was forced to look at myself in the mirror, and I did not like the reflection of the man staring back at me.

I would like to tell you the whole story, but if I did, it might inadvertently cause unnecessary hurt and draw unwanted attention onto the people I love — family and friends, who have been nothing but loyal, loving, understanding, patient, and kind despite all the pain and suffering I have unfairly brought upon them.

Most days, I feel blessed; most days, I see my bipolar disorder as a gift. These are not one of those days. Today, I am racked with guilt, shame, and remorse. I feel like a fraud, a con man, a trickster, a failure, a pariah, a useless, good-for-nothing parasite.

If you think you know what it’s like to feel utterly helpless, desperate, sad, and depressed, multiply that tenfold. That is what the other face of my mental health illness looks like. There is what you think depression is – and there is deep, dark clouds of depression — the debilitating, paralyzing, suffocating, earth-shattering depression.

Psychologists and psychiatrists would argue that being able to write is a manifestation of mania. But sometimes, it is during melancholia that I get to fully express the full breadth of my repressed inner world – this cavernous black hole — this place that never gets to see the light of day until a trigger cracks it wide open, and forces it out and under the full glare of the spotlight of reality. And this pandemic has shaken my mental landscape to its very core. It has made me a prisoner of my own mind, brought me down to my knees, shackled my hands, bound and tied my feet, and left impotent and immobilized. It grabbed me by the chin and ordered me to to think of all the ugly things I did, reflect on my own mortality as COVID19-positive thousands come to grips with their own, and all the injustices being perpertrated by the government while feeling helpless as students message me one by one for help that I could never give.

Today, I had an epiphany. And it was not the euphoria-inducing, mania-filled kind. I wish there were someone out there with whom I could just speak, or someone who could read my mind.

But alas, all I could do is write, because even if I want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to burden anyone any more than I already did – and still do — with the demons I need to exorcise.

You don’t need to know the whole story. All you need to know is there are people out there like me, who need forgiveness because unless they get it, they won’t be able to forgive themselves—and people like me, who need to forgive even if there is no apology that is coming.

All you need to know is that there are people out there suffering in silence, because of misconceptions about bipolar disorder, and the stigma society attaches to issues they don’t understand and make them feel uncomfortable because it forces them to be vulnerable.

There is no booklet in navigating our way to a healthier mental health. But I hope my depressive episodes would give people a glimpse into the inner turmoils of someone with mental health problems, particularly bipolar disorder, and would create a more effective communication style between families and the members suffering from mental health problems.

For me, there is catharsis in writing. So, I hope for some healing as my hand transcribes my demons away, and rids myself of these lingering negative emotions. But not everyone has the opportunities I have, or share my passion for cathartic writing.

With that realization in mind, I hope for some healing for others by beginning to listen more to the experiences of friends and family suffering from mental health issues. Bipolar disorder is a lifetime disorder. Much like diabetics need daily medications, so, too, do bipolar people.

The only difference is: Bipolar people not only need medications, we also need talk therapy — talk therapy not only from psychologists – but talk therapy from friends and family.

Question is: Who will reserve their judgments, and will just truly listen with open hearts and empathetic ears?

Best,

Francis Baraan IV
Diagnosed Bipolar I since 2011

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