My first piece of work on Protagonize; please be gentle!

This is a personal account of my experience of bipolar disorder, to help others get a feel for the life that is so often a "backdrop" to my work.

It’s often said that madness jumps you in the night; you lay your weary head to dream, and awake to find only shadows where once there was sanity. This has not been my experience. My madness creeps. It slithers on its belly like a cold and heartless snake. It claws at the fringes of your mind – scratching, whispering – desperate for attention. Slowly, it tears through your reality, rending you open and susceptible to attack. It smells your vulnerability, like a shark drawn to the scent of blood, pulling ever closer. Eventually, it merges completely. Your struggles to overthrow it are futile, for it is you, and you are it.

It is for this reason that I object to the phrase, “losing your mind”. It is not lost, indeed it is precisely where you left it. It is simply no longer the only one in your head. Madness has its own mind, and once the two are intertwined, they are inevitably bound for life. It is not a symbiotic relationship. Rather, madness strangles that which once was, parasitic, suffocating, ridding your world of colour and vigour and life. Sometimes your mind will launch a counter-attack, rearing its head and casting off its shackles, and while madness recoups, the world is once again a hospitable place; no more is every person, every object, every breath of air imbued with the ability – nay, the sole purpose – to destroy you. But, as surely as night follows the day, madness will eventually recover, plunging your mind back into Darkness.

Now, let’s be clear: Darkness is not merely the absence of light. No, it is so much more than that. Darkness is isolation. It is heart-wrenching, interminable sorrow. It is a hatred of everything you are, everything that you ever will be. It is the end of hope. It is days spent on the sofa, curled up so tightly that ribs must surely break, a foetal bastion against the evil that threatens to consume you. It is curtains drawn tightly against the summer sun, for in the light of the day you are exposed as the pathetic, worthless creature you’ve become. It is pain. Often, it is death.

But just as Darkness can strike with all the subtlety of a jackhammer, so too can it infiltrate your being in an altogether more disturbing fashion. It wears a stunning disguise, an impenetrable façade. It calls itself Light. Full of inspiration and boundless energy, Light whips your mind into a frenzy. While Darkness whispers, Light shouts. It promises the world; “you can be anything, if only you work hard enough”. And so you fall into its magnificent trap, working and creating and partying and travelling the Earth, if only in your mind. Hours are spent poring over dusty textbooks or gazing into glorious works of art, as the long-hidden secrets of the universe unfold in front of your eager eyes. Suddenly, everything is clear. The world, so full of beauty, so complex in design, is transformed into a fantasy land; diamonds stud the pavements, distant birds form an angelic chorus in the sky, trees sway in perfect choreography to Mother Nature’s intricate tune. It is the perfect predator, enticing you to love what will soon destroy you. As Light feeds its revelations into your mind, thick and fast, it tumbles out of control, no longer able to keep up with the impossible pace. Speech is slurred and incomprehensible. The clarity of the universe fizzles and crackles away, until all that is left are splinters, fragments of a fragile and broken mind. Only now does Light abandon its charade, revealing its true identity as Darkness, corruptor of good, harbinger of evil, destroyer of all.

Both are madness, for they leave you utterly incapable of functioning normally within your society. Both can be deadly; one kills slowly, draining your will to live until eventually death becomes the only logical course of action. The other goes for the jugular; swift, impulsive, it pushes you ever farther into a hostile world of risk-taking and irresponsibility, until you lie broken beneath the weight of your own dangerous endeavours.

Both go by the same name. They call themselves bipolar disorder.

The End

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