In the Midst of Life…..

Bipolar disorder is a disease that isolates the sufferer; wildly cycling moods make for a profoundly frightening and lonely experience.  That loneliness is an incredibly difficult emotion to articulate.  I often turn to poetry in an attempt to make sense of all that is going on within, typically finding some sort of resonance in the prose of Burns, Tennyson or Plath and the like.  Until now, I have been a reader and not a writer; as a scientist (with ancillary training in Theology), my linguistic skills are distinctly limited.  But now, I’ve tried to express these emotions in a short and rather clumsy poem entitled ‘In the Midst of Life…’:

In the midst of life…..I am alone.

The perennial bystander, I watch at a distance, with interest, transfixed by the plethora of human interactions that unfold around me:

Familial dynamics.

Work situations.

Friendships.

People having fun, laughing – relationships being built.

People arguing, crying – relationships breaking down.

In the midst of life…..I am alone.

I acknowledge the vibrancy and immediacy of life; I revel in its complexity.

But I am far removed from it.

I see the pinnacle of human nature expressed in some: the gregarious, selfless, compassionate and caring ones.

I see the depths of human nature expressed in others: those who are malevolent, selfish and vindictive.

The juxtaposition of good and bad is stark and bemusing to my simplistic soul.

In the midst of life…..I am alone.

I watch and I feel; a silent observer, recoiling instinctively from too much uncontrolled exposure.

I cannot reach out; I cannot give of myself completely.

And so I live out my life in my psyche.  Boundless and free, there I can be myself:

Overflowing with optimism and hope – the elixir of hypomania.

Wrestling with pessimism and hopelessness – the crushing despair of depression.

Shifting violently and uncontrollably from one extreme to the other, no notice given.

Here, I live as a hermit.

In the midst of life…..I am alone.

I am already enlightened, but still strive for enlightenment; an unfathomable paradox that reflects the turmoil within.

The facade can be sustained for only so long; the mask slips and exposure is absolute; the psyche reveals all; the internal morphs all too readily into the external:

Hypomania and depression lie naked and unmasked for all to see.

The inner wretchedness spews forth unguarded.

The label is attached, never again to be rescinded – I am bipolar.

But nothing changes. I am still me.

And so in the midst of life…..I remain alone.

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