We live with Laughter (and Bipolar Disorder)!

About the author
The writer’s nephew is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. He has rapid cycling—his mood swings several times between depression, mania and hypomania within a twelve-month period. He has periods of stability where he is able to hold down a job, be productive and social, with interruptions due to the mood swings.
“Wow, I had forgotten what silence feels like!” my nephew exclaimed after he started the new prescription for his hallucinations.When I sat down to write this guest post, I decided to focus on the funnier side of our lives in dealing with my nephew’s mental illness. He is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he also has auditory and visual hallucinations. Hearing voices is not a good thing even in the wizarding world but unlike Harry Potter, my nephew’s ‘voices’ have no magical component. Medications help to a certain extent but to be functional we had to come up with other strategies to counter the suggestions in his hallucinations.
And so we settled on humor 🙂
Hallucinations became visits…very scary hallucinations were ‘very good friends’ visiting. We could be in the middle of a social event but the family knew when a friend ‘visited’ someone had to be around to keep him grounded in reality. A close circle of my friends (flesh and blood friends, not visits) also learned our code speak.When the images were too scary or gory, we had another strategy…superimpose really absurd images on top of the disturbing hallucinations…many a day was spent on imagining pink floppy bunnies and goofy pets doing absurd things…wish we had drawn those. We did have a creative streak there:cool:

Then there was the time he wanted to ask someone for a date. So we sat around and helped him get ready—he had his nails cleaned, his sister gave him a facial (?), my husband advised him on the etiquette. His grandmother took the cake by advising him on how to carry himself:eek: I can still hear his groans “I can’t believe my grandmother is advising me on how to talk to a girl…I can’t believe she is critiquing my choice of clothes…!”

Another time he went house sitting for a friend and thought he’d let her cat out by mistake. I got a frantic call right after I reached home from work.

“Help me; I lost the cat…she must have gone out when I came in.”

“Ok, knock on the neighbor’s doors. Maybe they saw the cat.”

A few minutes later, he came back on the phone. “I asked but no one has seen her. Oh my, I’ve lost the cat!”

“She has to be there. Put some food out. She will come out of hiding.”

“I did and she hasn’t. Oh my, I’ve lost her cat! What is your friend going to do to me?”

“The cat has to be there. Just look in the closet.”

“I did and she isn’t there. I’ve lost the cat!”

We continued like this for half an hour. Finally, I got in the car to drive across the city in peak rush hour. A few minutes later I hit traffic…I stayed in the same spot for thirty minutes! Realizing my ‘doltishness’ in hitting the highway at that time of the day, I called back and asked him to wait.

Later in the evening, my husband drove over to my friend’s house. Together, they searched every nook and corner. I got a call around 10.00 p.m.

“The cat’s hiding in the closet—inside a shoe box. It was really hard to locate the black cat in a black shoe box in that dark closet!” When we called, our friend said, “Oh, did I forget to tell you? My cat is extremely nervous around men.” A cat nervous around men, really???

Now if something goes missing in the house, all the intelligent ones say “Oh, have you lost the cat?”

I do remember the manic outbursts and the frantic rides to the emergency room after each suicide attempt but I also remember our laughter and the jokes.


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