There’s no better person to describe to you the feeling of being stuck than a bipolar person. It’s because we know both spectrums of the mood scale; the feelings of hopeless stickiness and those of wild abandon, if you will.
In a bipolar person’s world, becoming unstuck is a good thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have lost your tether to reality, it means that you’ve managed to pick yourself up out of the gloomy hole you are currently in.
Let me try to describe to you what being stuck is like: imagine it’s a sunny day with scattered clouds here and there. You crave the warmth of the sun but you constantly find yourself in a dark patch. You could probably move into the sun from the dark cloud overhead simply by stepping out of its shadow, but some invisible force holds you back.
For me, that something is usually anxiety caused by a glimpse of the nihilistic, existential dilemma we humans find ourselves in, thanks to our overthinking brains: I want sunshine, I should get into it, let me take a step into it, but what for? Why should I take a step into the sun, what difference will it make in the bigger scheme of things if I do that, I mean, who cares if I’m in the shade, and when I do step into the sun, then what? Will I be satisfied? No, because then I’ll want the shade again! Oh it’s pointless! I’ll just stay here and wait for Godot…
It is a battle. A war with the self, where the will to move forward must win.
Feeling stuck is very exhausting on the body and the mind. Sometimes it feels like you’re turning a huge cog wheel to open a heavy gate and as you push with all your might, you can hear the huge chains rattle and screech and it makes you feel so tired and after all the hard work, you’ve maybe just opened the gate a crack and you’re disheartened by the sheer effort it took to amount to almost no difference. But you must persevere. You have to keep pushing that cog; you MUST open that gate.
When I realize I am stuck, I MAKE myself make a mental list of achievements that I need to complete. These are as mundane sounding as: make a list, go to gym, go to work, finish a task at work, wash and blow dry your hair, buy groceries, finish the chapter in the book, walk the dogs, fetch the kids from school, make dinner, tuck everyone in to bed, smile. What sounds like a normal day in an unstuck person’s life is actually a high achieving day in a bipolar person’s life. On this day, we have moved! This makes us feel very good.
Bipolar means there are two opposing sides, and in my head it feels like I have two states of consciousness. In one, I am stuck and I am anxious and I can’t think further that that. Then there is another conscience that sits behind this one, a little further down ‘to the left,’ that is asking me reasonable questions about why I’m letting the anxious one take precedence. These are not personalities I’m talking about, they are opposing MOODS in the same body.
This is not to be mistaken with Schizophrenia. People with Schizophrenia have walked through the Looking Glass and Bipolar people are simply aware of the land beyond it.
Understand that a Bioplar person is not always stuck. It happens randomly. You could be having a good, ‘normal’ kinda week and then all of a sudden, you don’t want to even speak. It is debilitating and annoying. Medicine and therapy helps tons. But you have to do the hard work of getting unstuck yourself.
Remember that 80s movie What About Bob? In this film, the egotistical psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (played by the brilliant Richard Dreyfuss) has written a book called ‘Baby Steps’ and peddles it to his unstable yet irritatingly lovable patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murray, who happens to be my favourite actor). Well, the gist of his book is to take ‘baby steps’ toward your goal and eventually you will achieve it. As hilarious as this movie is, there is so much truth in this concept. For people who feel stuck; taking small, baby steps forward will help get you moving without the mammoth effort of trying to do it all at once.
It goes without saying that it doesn’t mean you’re bipolar if you feel stuck! We all feel this way at some point. So, if you ever feel stuck, all you have to do is just one thing. One small thing. Then another small thing. Then another maybe slightly larger thing. And with each thing achieved, your stickiness will become less fastened to that dark cloud’s shadow and propel you forward into the sunshine again.