on colors and bipolar disorder

Color is a beautiful thing. In fact, I would consider myself a color-sensitive person. I have vivid memories of my bubblegum pink room as a little girl, my grandparent’s orange carpet from the 1970s (which they still have, by the way, throughout their entire house), purple walls which I stared at as a senior in high school attempting to complete AP homework, and the green, green grass of my college in Arkansas. That grass was all that I had ever dreamed of as a girl born and raised in the desert.

I’ve been told that people who are bipolar are drawn to bright colors. It may or may not be true of every bipolar person, but it is certainly true of me. During my first breakdown (which was senior year of college), I wore uncommonly bright colors to class. And since then I have experienced my fascination with the color spectrum alternate between neutrals and vibrant shades.

For instance, when I moved home after my second breakdown (which happened to be last year), I made sure that my room was safely neutral, to achieve inner peace and balance. Only recently I introduced splashes of color in the curtains, shelves, and bedspread. I believe that the color swing was motivated by a desire to embrace my inner creativity and outward expression.

My diagnosis is officially Bipolar Type 1. Most people don’t know that there is more than one type. Mine happens to involve more extreme mood swings, with an emphasis on mania. I don’t experience rapidly cycling moods, and I’m not often a depressed person, either. However, I know mania. I’ve been hospitalized for being out of my mind twice, both episodes triggered by high levels of stress. It’s like my thoughts become greedy. They multiply rapidly and attempt to tackle more than they can handle, like solving the world’s problems. They keep me up at night and support impulsive behavior, including out of control spending. It’s terrible and embarrassing to wake up from, and both times I’ve come to my senses it’s been in a psychiatric ward. I guess it falls into the category of “rude awakenings.”

I’ve discovered that it’s been helpful during my hospitalizations to color. It helped to calm and focus my thoughts again. Both times color has been one of the strategies I used to recover the broken strands of thought and weave them back into the fabric of my mind, snipping off threads where necessary.

Despite the pain of that process for me and for those close to me, I wouldn’t change anything about myself, even if I could prevent mania from ever happening again. To be sure, my world can turn topsy-turvy in an instant, but I wouldn’t exchange its fresh perceptions and vivid colors for anything.

Welcome to my world.

–June Skye–

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