Riding my Crazy Tiger

Hi I’m Nikki and I have Bipolar. I don’t refer to it as a disorder because sometimes it serves me quite well and while depression is commonly referred to as ‘the black dog’, I have given my bipolar the moniker, ‘the crazy tiger’. I have black stripes and they can be dismal but the rest of the time I’m flaming red and it is those times I relish. I have Bipolar 2.

While Bipolar 1 and 2 are related and used to come under the same heading of manic-depression, they differ slightly. I have episodes of deep depression. Deep, suicidal, bare-fanged depression. At those times the crazy tiger tries to gore me. But for most of the time I live in the other extreme – I’m riding the red tiger with the wind blowing in my hair, shouting ‘yippee’ at all who will listen. Those with Bipolar 1 find their ‘up’ episodes so dizzyingly high that they are dangerous. That’s the difference between mania and hypomania. 

Both states are characterized by

High energy
Positive mood
Inappropriate behaviour
Mystical experiences.

…but in mania, these things are experienced in the EXTREME! When I’m up, I’m very, very up but not completely in outer space.  

A third of patients do not respond well to pharmaceutical interventions with Bipolar. I fall into this bracket. Medication had the unfortunate effect of sending me completely and utterly nuts. I was in a hell that all but spiraled out of control. I have someone very close to me who is Bipolar 1 and responds wonderfully to drug therapy. I know I could keep juggling and trying out new medications but some years back, I decided to take my tiger by the ears and let him know who was boss. Sometimes he still snaps and snarls at me but most of the time now we get on just fine.

I’ve decided to really get to know and understand my crazy tiger. They say it’s a good thing to get to know your enemy and so I did and in doing so I’ve made a friend of him. It is truly like taming a wild animal. I have learned what triggers his ferocity and I avoid those stressors….drinking too much, being alone for too long, arguing with irritating people, lack of sleep, eating too much sugar. And I stroke the beast by thanking him for the heightened creative urges, the marathon writing sessions, the unbridled energy, the leg-trembling libido, the sense of spiritual enlightenment.

When he does snap, I remind myself that it is just his savage nature and I do my best to reason with the darkness and pray that it will soon pass.

Bipolar has affected so many creative people through-out history and I remember hearing Stephen Fry once articulate the same sentiment that I have….that he would miss the creative highs that go with the condition if he were not to have it. To be even-keeled and temperate and balanced would unnerve me. I’m a roller-coaster girl and I’ve come to accept that and deal with it.

One of the most profound ways I have come to banish the blues and minimise the dark stripes is by exercise and diet. There are so many natural ways to temper mood disorders. Magic ingredient one is FISH OIL. I suspect that any good Omega 3 supplement would work as well. Cashews and Brazil nuts come in second place. Salmon, green leafy vegetables and legumes. I literally run like an F1 supercar on that sort of petrol.
Sugar is a potent poison which stirs the vicious streak in my crazy tiger. Alcohol sends him into a dark rage more than anything else. He can handle some red wine and champagne now and again. But a binge will have him out of the cage and gnawing at my throat in no time.

A good long walk can turn my mood from black to crimson like a cartwheeling gymnast.
My approach to Bipolar is not for everyone and before I started tackling the problem there were some dark times when the suicidal feelings were frightening. I don’t condemn the use of medication because it can be life-saving.  But I have chosen to go the most natural way and live with an element of vigilance to mood. I am lucky that for most of the time I am running like a happy, energetic whirling dervish, scheming and dreaming. When I am down I can force myself to realise that the sky is not really falling, it’s just the empty roar of that crazy tiger.

It makes life a little unpredictable…..but never boring.

We are all made differently. My best friend recently gave birth to a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome and she reckons her darling’s extra chromosome ‘rocks’! She’s an inspiration. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Over the years I can attribute a good deal of tears to my tiger but every great success has also been thanks to my crazy striped friend. Bi-polar can be a bitch but sometimes, it too, rocks! 

1 comment:

  1. So true Nikki. My youngest was not Bipolar but was, and I guess always will be, an ADHD child. We were determined not to use pharmaceuticals if possible and thus began the pre-internet search for natural cures. As a child we steered her diet away from evil sugars etc. and eventually found our "silver bullet" in the form of a Fish Oil supplement (Efalex). Worked a charm and she eventually grew to recognise the incoming "beast", if I may use your analogy, and is now able to shut the gates before he arrives.

    Life is, as you say, never boring when dealing with emotional swings.

    Keep up the great work.


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