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  • Writer's pictureScott M Williamson

...the obligation to express

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

a mental health post...

Temporale (Spring Storm), original

Sharing a Samuel Beckett quote on fb yesterday reminded me to express myself here. It has been a minute since I've shared a Mental Health post. Rabbi Hillel* famously asked, "if not now, when?"

So here goes...

Cy Twombly: Spring, from Four Seasons

My non-bipolar friends are often surprised to learn that May-July are the roughest months of the year for some of us on the manic side of the spectrum. Mental Health Awareness Month is May on purpose: it's when both manic episodes and suicides begin to peak. "April is the cruelest month," and as others celebrate Spring's arrival, you dread the onset of crazy...

I find the nature-mirroring, hibernating depressions of winter far easier to manage than "Spring fever" and the "dog-days" of Summer, when I'm most irritable and volatile. It's a challenging time of year. I'm grateful my manic attacks are on the "hypo-" end of the spectrum and are not full-blown.

To raid my own symptoms as an example: during these hypomanic episodes, I can be financially and socially irresponsible while being prolifically creative with little sleep. In other words, I may resemble a hedonistic spendthrift, a super-charged, sleep-deprived, creative "madman," but I have not yet needed to check myself in. I have not demanded that incoming traffic stop because I believed I was Alexander the Great; neither has my inner-Lion King prompted me to eat a raw steak.

Freeman Vines: Death Mask, from Hanging Tree Guitars, Winston-Salem, NC

To make things more interesting, this time of year also brings mixed episodes, where symptoms of depression and mania intermingle. These bipolar extremes alternate quickly and often without warning. You could find yourself tossed between un-triggered emotional breakdowns and rants which sound like the unhinged, articulate temper-tantrums of an unwell adult...

We manic-depressives do contribute an above-average percentage of creatives, leaders, lefties and contrarians to humanity's assembly line. We also are statistically more prone towards suicide and other neurological diseases like addiction.

Teaching American Studies at UVT, Timisoara, Romania

I am lucky to be able to manage my episodes with the professional management of therapy and medication; with self-care, the support of loved ones, and a vocation-career which all keep me going.

I was in therapy for 10 years before I began seeing a psychiatrist. Thus began a decade [sic] of trying to find the right balance of medication. I wish I had started both forms of treatment sooner.

If you or someone you care about experiences symptoms of depression or mania, or experiences suicidal ideation, please address it promptly.

Sunset at Virginia Beach, 2021

I hope sharing these experiences might help others better understand bipolar illness, get the help they need, and/or help others be supportive of loved ones. Mental illness and addiction are not shortcomings, weaknesses, or so-called character flaws. If mental illnesses were more outwardly apparent maybe more understanding and empathy from a wider public would result.

Thanks for reading and for supporting me on this journey. That I am able to write this post is itself an indication of wellness for me. And thus far, I'm in much better health this summer than in the last few.

Feel free to reach out & message me if I can be of help, lend an ear, or share more of my experiences.

That Beckett quote mentioned at the top goes like this: "The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."

Rodin at the National Museum, Bucharest, Romania

*the first two questions in Hillel's existential trifecta are: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" and "If I am not for others, what am I?" (followed by, "if not now, when?")

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