My name is Dennis. At the time of writing, I'm a 35 year old High-Functioning Autistic with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. I spent about 15 years undiagnosed and unmedicated, from 13-14 to 29ish. In about 2009, I was diagnosed after a particularly bad Mixed Cycle that scared my then-Fiancee.
People react in different ways to their diagnosis. To me, it was a relief. Why? Well, let's have a look at my history with Bipolar Disorder...
- 1 Active Suicide Attempt
- 6 Passive Suicide Attempts
- A stint being homeless
- Living in the ghetto
- Drug Abuse
- Alcohol Abuse
- 25+ Jobs
- Screwing up college
- Screwing up two engagements
- A rocky relationship with my son
Before I was diagnosed, I looked at that laundry list of fuck ups and saw it as representative of who I was. I couldn't keep things together like an adult, therefore I was a fuck up and a waste of carbon material. Diagnosis was the best day of my life because it was then that I was finally able to start seeing what was me and what was the illness. When I was relatively balanced and stable, I did very well. I would get the highest raises and commendations on the jobs I held, regularly praised by management, asked to consider upper positions; because I worked hard for my employers and I wanted to do a good job.
But once the Hypomania or Bipolar-Depression set it in? Forget it. Whatever positives I had built up were doomed. While escalated, I was angry at myself for being such a fuck up and would tear down what I built. When I was immersed in Bipolar-Depression I would hit a point of apathy where nothing mattered; not me, my responsibilities, or the job.
That applied to most things in my life. My only active suicide attempt was at 15 or 16 years old. I racked up the rest before I hit 19. I've spent most of my life mired in a moderate to suicidal Bipolar-Depression with maybe one or two short hypomanic cycles a year.
It sucked ass and I'm still unmaking the damage even now, particularly to myself.
But! After I was diagnosed I became obsessive about learning about the Disorder. I read everything I could, read medical journal entries, books, websites, and videos. The first place I turned was to the internet. I was very disappointed in the information I found. It can be boiled down to the following...
1. Websites and blogs by people coping with Bipolar Disorder and their struggles- which is fine if it helps the person recover. Unfortunately, it didn't provide much insight into helping ME with MY recovery.
2. Websites that went out of their way to try and spin it into a positive. I now understand that the point of this kind of message is to try and instill hope in the person that their life won't always be shit. As a freshly diagnosed Bipolar coming off several years of Bipolar-Depression and the loss associated with it- I saw it as just useless bullshit.
3. Lots and lots and lots of copy-pasting or rehashing of the DSM criteria. In many locations, it was just the DSM criteria copied verbatim. Again, not much that would help me with my diagnosis.
That experience planted the seeds for my Bipolar Manifesto.
My Recovery And This Website
I lamented my life and my losses until I discovered the career path of "Peer Support". I came to understand that my misery and experiences could be used in a positive way. Being able to say "I understand" and connect with someone struggling with the same battles is a humbling experience. Quite often, you are provided a step inside of their walls because they see a kindred spirit rather than someone who learned about their problems from a book or as a loved one.
My initial goal for Bipolar Manifesto was to create a free resource where other people could find the information they needed to get started on their own path to recovery. I wanted to facilitate understanding by illuminating obscure points and myths in mental health. And believe me, there are a shitload; whether it's about what will get you committed, the ramifications of psych meds, or what will actually get your kids taken away if you're mentally ill.
I still aim for that, but I quickly started receiving emails from the loved ones of these people who wanted insight or help understanding their loved one. Nowadays, I would say I talk to one mentally ill person per five loved ones of mentally ill people. My dynamics shifted a bit but the core of my goals stayed intact.
My Unique Gift Of Perspective
I feel like my combination of mental illnesses was a very difficult gift. High-Functioning Autism broke my social processes pretty thoroughly without any learning or severe motor difficulties. I had to teach myself to do things like read and project body language, pay attention to tones, and figure out subtle sarcasm. On the other side of the coin; breaking my social processes was actually kind of beneficial. It allowed me to throw open the doors and say "this is me".
I opted for the approach of brutal honesty because it is the only real leg I have to stand on. Anyone can point at me, say "he's Bipolar", and discredit anything I have to say because it could be a figment of the illness. However, facts are facts. They don't care how you or I feel about them. Facts are the anchor I tie my brain to so as to keep it from escalating or plunging back into the depressive abyss. The HFA proved beneficial because I came to realize that no matter what other people knew about me, I'd feel no different about it tomorrow. Want to talk suicide attempts? What it feels like to have to eat out of a dumpster? To be simultaneously afraid for and completely apathetic towards preserving your life?
I can do that. HFA freed me from many of those social anxieties because my brain just doesn't have those functions. Additionally, it gave me a coldly logical train of thought. I'm able to sit down and dissect my own thoughts, actions, and treat them with neutrality. It's particularly useful if someone I know tells me I'm acting off or weird.
Goals And Content
The content you will find on my site is written mostly by me. I have some work from other authors posted on my blog and they are clearly denoted as such. My work is derived from my life experience, what I've learned dealing with other people, my own research, and what I believe would have helped me if I was going through or had gone through that circumstance.
I am not a doctor, lawyer, or therapist of any kind. I do not render any "legal or medical advice" and nothing on my site should be construed as such. Any decisions on your care or life circumstances should be made with a professional that understands your personal situation and challenges.
So why should you listen to me? You shouldn't. My goal is to offer people a place to start with some actionable information. That doesn't mean it will necessarily be right for you. I readily encourage you to explore as many avenues as it takes you to find information that speaks to you and provides you or your loved one a means of finding wellness. I am but one man with my own individual thoughts and opinions on this particular subject matter.
Mental health is a very complex, convoluted creature. We may be unified by symptoms and diagnosis; but we all experience our mental illness in our own, personal way. It is very important to research things thoroughly and understand how YOUR mental illness applies to YOU- or your loved one as the case may be.