The Real Sparkle King: How I Cope with Bipolar Depression
By Patrick A. Roland

I should have known I was in trouble when they started calling me The Sparkle King.

About six weeks after the release of Unpacked Sparkle, I entered a New Year’s Eve dance on a large throne.  6 people, dubbed the Sparklettes, danced and swirled around me, heralding my grand entrance.  I was bedazzled from head to toe in a costume that had been made for me that featured a golden crown, a cape with my new moniker bedazzled in silver sparkle across the back, a tutu and a wand.  Leggings with Britney Spears song titles scrawled across them completed my look.

After the processional, as Beyoncé gave me life in the background, I took center stage.  I shook, I shimmied, I sashayed and I gave the crowd everything I had in me.

You’re gonna love me!

And then just as fast as my ascension to the “top,” it was over.  And the problem with that is I am bipolar.  Once this grand and grandiose moment of over the top whimsy and carefree spectacle was done with, I had certain expectations about what was supposed to happen.  As Effie sings in Dreamgirls: “You’re gonna love me!”

But my expectations went unmet.  People kind of rolled their eyes and didn’t really seem to care.  I dived head first into the deepest depression I had experienced in my then year and a half of sobriety.  The problem was, I was The Sparkle King, I was selling rainbows and puppies and sparkle.  I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone how I really felt.

So I sat in that scary space and stayed depressed, and in fear of how to get out of it, for a solid 4 months.  Suicidal, I pretty famously almost jumped off the 26th storey of a Las Vegas casino.  This led to the hospitalization where I discovered I was bipolar and realized I had to stay sober to be healthy – so this fall was really serious.

I remembered a friend

And then I remembered a friend whose brutal honesty had always been exactly what I needed.  So, after almost a year of wanting my friend Caleb to become my sponsor, I texted him.  He called me back within seconds and made time to see me the very next day.

As we talked, I found myself being more honest with him than I had been with anyone since my partner died.   I found myself growing, I found myself healing, I found myself living again.  As I moved through fear and shared the most vulnerable parts of myself with Caleb, a new truth and way of life emerged, which has helped me deal the most with my bipolar diagnosis that I received about 2 and a half years ago.  If I stay close to the people who love me and share my true feelings with them when I start to go astray emotionally, I can avoid the overwhelming pain that leads to unbearable depression and mood swings.

This new approach has made the last 6 months or so a lot more manageable.  I’m not saying I don’t get depressed either.  Even when I stay up on my meds, I still swing up and down – mostly down – with almost daily regularity.  But I definitely get by with a little help from my friends.

I ask my friends for help

The truth is life – even sober – is full of disappointment, sadness and pain.  But once I realized I didn’t have to be alone in it, I gave birth to a new truth and way of life.  People don’t respond to pomp and circumstance, they respond to heartfelt honesty and emotion.  So I stay true to myself and share my feelings without wallowing in them, and I stay healthy.

For example, I was recently really excited to go on a date with someone.  I have not dated much since my partner died. OK, I have not really dated at all.

The day before I was supposed to go out on one such date, the individual dumped me and left me with expensive tickets to a comedy show.  But instead of isolating and making it sting more, I told my friends how much it hurt.  Within minutes, my friend Nate offered to go with me.  He didn’t want to see me disappointed and in pain.  And so, I didn’t go on a date, but I got an even greater gift out of what could have been a harbinger to a major downward spiral.  I got closer to a true friend and felt more love than I probably would from that dumb date if I am being honest.

I stand in my truth

And so now when things don’t go the way I want them to, I step out of fear.  I stand in my truth and ask my friends for help.  Or I help someone else.  This week I was passed over for a major service commitment in favor of someone with more experience.  And it hurt bad.  But I stayed close to Caleb.  I let him love me through my pain.  I loved myself through the loss and I turned around and helped someone else find their sparkle the very next day.  It’s in these moments of raw honesty, openness and vulnerability where I take my pain and make it my power that I am truly The Sparkle King.

Authors website: Sparkle King

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