By Chris Heide
“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.” - Joss Whedon
I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 16 years old, following an episode of suicidal ideation that occurred during an epic power outage in my home. I was experiencing heightened emotional mood swings, at an accelerated rate beyond the normal behavioral patterns of a teenager. This state of life that I considered normal was far beyond any true sense of normalcy.
Bipolar disorder is an exhausting mood disorder. Every emotional reaction and every state of mood is extreme. Passion and feeling become both an asset and a liability. Every situation becomes life and death. It is an exhausting, potential debilitating existence.
For a few years, my bipolar moods swings were beneficial. In states of mania or hypomania, I became productive, creative and social. I made friends, excelled at school and enjoyed life. Of course, bipolar is a cyclical, balanced disease. With every soaring high comes a crashing low. Following these periods of hypomania, I would crash into a state of perpetual irritation, anger and frustration. There were times when I was barely able to contain my emotions. My relationships suffered and I began to suffer the consequences of my erratic behavior. I lost friends, jobs and my own sense of self. It was a chaotic and confusing time. It was just a matter of time before I descended into the world of drug addiction.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, in hindsight, it is clear that I began using drugs in response to my bipolar disorder. Drugs helped to abate the negative symptoms of the disease, while making the positive aspects more profound. If I were in state of mania or hypomanic, drugs would help to make me more creative, social and spontaneous. The allure of the chaos was addicting. I craved passion and excitement. I believed that without this chemically induced passion in my life, I would be truly dead inside.
As my drug addiction worsened throughout my twenties, so did the destruction of my erratic behaviors. I became involved with another man, who like me, was bipolar. Our nearly two year relationship was toxic and volatile. The aftermath of that destructive relationship and the impending bottom of my deepening drug addiction brought me to my knees. I was living upon the falsehood that my passion for chaos needed to be the driving force in my life. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After years of a nearly fatal drug addiction, I made the decision to get clean and sober on March 19, 2013. During the last two years of my addiction, I became virtually homeless and unemployable. I lost nearly all of my friends and family, having driven them away with my selfish, erratic behavior. I was on the verge of losing my freedom. Since then my, my whole concept of passion and life have changed. I have found a way to match calamity with serenity, through the life-saving program known as Alcoholics Anonymous. For years, my bipolar disorder and subsequent drug addiction fooled me into thinking that what I needed was chaos. As I began to pick up the pieces of my shattered life in my early recovery, I slowly realized that what I was truly craving was a sense of belonging and a sense of peace. To the surprise of no one, as sobriety progressed, my bipolar symptoms began to abate.
Today I have a passion for life, for recovery and for helping others. I have a passion for loving myself no matter what. Without this kind of passion, a new kind of passion, I truly would be dead inside. Sobriety has given me this new passion. It is the most important gift I could have ever received.