It all started during a severe manic episode in September of 2016.
My housemate asked me:
“Why do you have so many clothes?"
I paused for a second, observing the war zone my room had become; I hadn’t really noticed the mess up until she pointed it out. I guess I was too distracted by the flight of ideas swirling in my head and the exciting projects I had recently begun.
I had no idea the “floordrobe” in my cave had expanded to such impressive heights. With shock, and a subtle hint of pride, I realised my floor resembled more of a Himalayan mountain ridge than a bedroom. The sea of clothes spilling over from one pile to another, merging both clean and dirty, formed such a mass it could rival the island of trash accumulating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The thought of cleaning up this natural disaster sent shivers down my spine. This clothes spill seemed to be more daunting than the very real possibility that I was losing my mind. I wondered to myself how this possibly could have happened. I had a flashback to digging through my closet, trying to find something to wear that was even remotely agreeable.
Nothing felt right at the time. It was as if all the clothes were not mine -- as if I was raiding someone else’s wardrobe.
Then it hit me.
I have so many different clothes because I have so many different personalities, each in need of their own wardrobe!
My outfits are an external expression of how I feel.
It is an extension of the mood state I am in.
It's almost like I could use each day’s outfit as a mood ring, sometimes changing dramatically from Tuesday to Wednesday. But each I was reminded of the Barbie doll I had when I was a kid and how extensive her wardrobe was.
I suddenly empathized with her for not being able to pick her own outfits.
I decided not just what she wore, but who she would be each day.
I felt sorry for Barbie.
I related to her in an entirely different way. She had her default personas like Dr. Barbie, Roller Skating Barbie, Ballerina Barbie, Malibu Barbie, and a huge variety of other occupations and hobbies.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised I was a lot like her;
but my personas were Manic Barbie, Suicidal Barbie, Anxious Barbie, Depressed Barbie, Borderline Barbie, Self-Harming Barbie, and any other combination of symptoms my mental illnesses decided to make me deal with each day.
I was literally a Bipolar Barbie doll.
I had my outfits, and, like Barbie, I was being dressed by some other force I didn't quite understand.
I was at the will of my illness and it dressed me each day however it saw fit.
Sometimes I would rapidly change throughout the day and due to the limitations of my financial circumstances and wardrobe, I always seemed to be living a life I never seemed to be dressed appropriately for.
I was roller Skating Barbie at banquet, Ballerina Barbie in the courtroom, Horse Riding Barbie getting married, Scuba Diving Barbie in the desert, and Sleeping Barbie under water. It never felt right.
I was always a different version of myself.
Who was Naked Barbie anyway?
But, unlike Barbie, I didn't get a new life each game.
I couldn't hit reset whenever I wanted.
I had all these different personas and had to live the same life, a life meant for one person in each body.
I had multiple people living within me and each of them had their own versions.
I was constantly swapping and changing that it’s no wonder I find it hard to maintain any form of stability.
We are encouraged from such a young age to figure out what we want to do with our lives. We are constantly asked the question what do you want to be when you grow up?
We are told to pick anything other the most important thing a person can be. Ourselves. We are told to pick a career, design a life not really knowing who we are. We are informed of the ways people should live. The things we should aim for.
We are moulded into young adults that are expected to conform to society. To the way our parents, teachers and community think we will succeed. Success is something we all yearn for and are promised we will have if we live in a certain way. This normally involves the pursuit of financial gain, security and ultimately happiness.
But what if you are like me? If money means nothing to you but a means to an end. You have had your possessions taken from you, stolen & discarded so many times material things have no value to you. Both money and possessions have never made me happy and in truth its always been quite the opposite.
Happiness is an emotion and being bipolar or mentally ill and an empath, whatever the cause, I have an enormous emotional capacity. The spectrum of emotions I feel are out of this world. So I will never be content unless I am living the extremes of happiness that vibrate through my bones and shine out my radiant smile.
I was convinced money would give me that, right up until I lost my mind. When I learnt the most valuable thing a person has is their sanity. I am forever grateful I lost it, no matter how hard it was to loose. I learnt of its value because I felt its absence and I yearned for its return.
I thought at first it would just come back one day and I waited until it never did. It was about then I began my journey to find it. No one ever tells you that one day you may have to embark on that difficult journey.
There's no map. There's no one place it hides. Just know that its somewhere inside. I searched long and hard everywhere outside of myself. I blamed its theft on everyone and everything in my life and because of that I gave away the power of its safe return to people who didn't have it and didn't understand what it was I lost.
That got me into a lot of trouble and I write off those 15 years as lost years. Because I was moving further away from where I needed to be looking.
I began to realize that in all these failures, mistakes and heartache, I was the only common denominator. I changed everything about me and my circumstances a thousand times before I came to the conclusion that it was me all along.
That soul crushing reality that I had been the source of my own drama and pain was humiliating. It made me want to give up. It was about then I could put into words that If I was at fault and didn't know why it had to be my mind sending false signals. It was then I knew exactly what I had lost but I had no idea how to get it back.
I reached out. I asked for help. But no one understood.
They associated me with what I had done. But I knew it wasn't me. They hated me, resented me and judged me for the person I was when my mind had been lost. They didn't believe me when I had told them what had happened. You were always different they said. Your an even bigger disappointment now. You did this to yourself.
The journey to finding my sanity was long and hard. The understatement of the century. It changed me. In a way no one ever understood. I had to forget everything I ever knew about myself because I changed as I rode the waves of mental illness. Each episode was like a filter was put over my personality. It was me physically but not me mentally. No one but me knew when I was really there. And I had been ill for so long I didn't even know myself.
I had been told who I was and who I was going to be my whole life I actually believed it. I was so disappoint that my illness took away my potential. It destroyed any chance of the life I wanted. It took away what I was promised, success and happiness. I felt like it crippled me. I couldn't live life or succeed in life. I was a failure and it hurt. I hated myself even more, I compared myself to who I used to be. I was my own worst enemy.
But now I feel like a fool for even thinking I knew who I was. I mean does anyone really? Isn't that what life is about? A journey to discover ourselves? To work out who we are, what we value and what we want? At least that's how I see it now. Everything that has happened after much reflection I can see what it taught me. What I learnt about life, others and most importantly myself. I don't claim to know who I am because I learn more and more each day. But I am closer to figuring it out than I ever have been!
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