Bipolar in Paradise

June 22, 2014

Moist, sugar-soft sand squeezed in between my toes as I ambled along the beach. The oranges, reds, and yellows swirled across the horizon and the rhythmic sounds of the ocean blended in perfect harmony with the steel drums tapping out an island tune. For seven days I was in a Caribbean heaven vacationing with my family. And yet, for seven days, bliss eluded me.

It's difficult to know just what kept me from feeling as carefree and euphoric as one might expect under the circumstances. It could be my recent change in medication for the treatment of my Bipolar II. Or it could be the simple fact that my firstborn son still sits in prison after more than a year. I don't know. But the truth is while my entire family celebrated the joyful occasion of my parents' 45th anniversary in ocean waves of St. Croix, I secretly battled a different set of waves all week, the waves of melancholy that have plagued me for as long as I can remember. In the midst of a week-long island vacation, I was sad, plain and simple.

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't spend my days in a darkened room with the covers pulled over my head. I was very active and quite social really. I jogged every morning followed by an elaborate breakfast at the resort restaurant. Then I sunned and swam, snorkeled and celebrated with everyone. But there was this gray cloud over my head all the time. I couldn't seem to thoroughly enjoy myself no matter how hard I tried. I knew how amazing this vacation was and how much I should be loving it, yet I couldn't. I just couldn't.

I suppose that's what living with bipolar really is for me-- being aware of how I should feel, yet feeling the opposite. I guess I am lucky that I am usually aware of what I am missing when my illness strikes. Others may not be.

After this vacation, I've learned that the waves of bipolar illness can crash any shore, even in paradise.

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