I am often too much. I’m too loud. I laugh too hard. I have too much energy. I feel too often and too deep. I care too deeply, both in that I try to care for people too often and that I consider other opinions too much. I try too hard.
When I invited a friend of mine over, admittedly I was also interested in her romantically, I thought it would be ideal to make for her a gluten free pizza as she has Celiac disease. I asked my roommate’s advice for this idea and he said that was far too elaborate for the situation. This theme is common. When I see that friends or coworkers are upset, my first reaction is to hug them and tell how deeply I love them, that it’ll be okay, to sing to them, or to make them a cake.
This is all too much. I know that many who read this will think that all these things are sweet. I don’t disagree. But, they are sweet when they are welcome. They are sweet when a parent does them for a child. I feel as though they aren’t sweet when you’ve only been working with someone for a month or so and you barely know anything about them. Really, what this argument comes down to is consent. I’m not talking about consent in an intimate or sexual context–just the idea of agreement of an action. The difference between the charming and the sleazy is whether or not both parties are into the endeavor. Say you see someone stroking someone’s face. Great if they’re dating, horrifying if it’s the new bus boy. Now that we’ve established that foundational idea let’s go back to consent and kindness. Because, it does apply.
If someone doesn’t like you or isn’t in the mood for you to be kind to them, the results are often catastrophic. I think we all have had a time when a significant other (S.O. for you young folks) has been feeling glum or angry and our response was to try to comfort them and the result was a tirade that made the neighborhood dogs howl. This is because the consent was assumed, one sided. I live in constant fear that others will misperceive my actions, that they think I’m trying to make something untoward happen when I’m just an empathetic person wanting to help.
This is why I love silliness with all my heart. Silliness is the most safe and appropriate way for someone to express the desire for someone to feel better. Silliness, to me, means humor that isn’t cruel with no agenda other than to engage and entertain, and, God-willing, to lighten the mood. To quote my favorite McElroy brother, “You can be funny and cruel or funny and kind. The first one is easy the second one is worth it.” Silliness is looking at the dark and laughing at it. It is a gift given to humanity to ward away evil. This is why I am too loud.
I also, am mentally ill.
Hi. I’m Tristan and I have bipolar disorder. But, you know what? So do a lot of your favorites: Maria Bamford, Richard Dreyfus, Carrie Fisher, Stephen Fry, as well as the rumored Robin Williams, and Robert Downey Jr. I’m going to give you a little run down of what that means. There are three main kinds of Bipolar Disorder. Cyclothymia, closely related to seasonal affective disorder or SAD,* is a cycle of moods generally determined by the weather going from slightly more happy and fast than most of your friends to more sad, agitated, and wistful than them, depending on where the stars are aligned in a aquarius or what your brain chemistry is currently doing.
Bipolar II is what I have. Light manias, called Hypomania is where the subject has racing thoughts, expansive mood, overactive pleasure centers, a million great ideas and no attention span in which to carry them out. Alternatively, when in the throes of Hypomania, one may become severely agitated, fidgety, and anxious. Now here’s the fun part: or all of those at the same time. It also comes with severe and more frequent depressions, wherein someone has a hard time focusing thoughts, is lethargic, pessimistic in demeanor, and generally a shit load of fun to be around. This version of Bipolar Disorder has the highest comorbidity rate, which is to say it has the highest rate of other mental disorders with it. ADHD, addiction, subtraction, and OCD are all often diagnosed along with Bipolar II.
Bipolar I is the third and final evolution of this Pokémon of ups and downs. It is also, therefore, the most dangerous. With full mania, the subject can experience hallucinations, stay awake for days at a time, speak to angels, produce some of the world’s greatest paintings, and become convinced that they are some sort of messianic figure.** With these immense and intense highs come, without fail, the most severe depressions people face. One in five people with Bipolar I complete suicide, according to The National Institute of Mental Health.
All this is to say. I lead a moderately normal, happy life. I go to work, I play video games, I get coffee with friends, and I am the son of a god named Craåcknah whose sole purpose is to make you better at pleasing each other orally. No, I do in fact lead a moderately normal life. Just occasionally I talk too quickly, start five books (both reading and writing), and go so fast that Jessie Owens is impressed. Mental illness, particularly mine, has played an intrinsic role in creating someone of the biggest impressions on society. Both Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln had Manic Depressive Disorder and did just fine. My point, I suppose, is that if you have someone in your life with this illness, treat them like a person, that is to say, with respect. Listen to them, take their needs into account even though they may be different than yours, and treat everyone with empathy. People who are mentally ill, specifically those with Bipolar disorder, are often the most sensitive, curious, courteous, and wonderful people. They are stuff that dreams are made on, to misquote that one guy who wrote those plays. There is a lot of of stigma towards something that has, in all honesty, given so much to society. I encourage anyone reading this to continue to research mental illness so that we can have a deeper understanding of each other and to live in harmony, specifically during these tumultuous times. My people, and they are my people, have been responsible for “The Starry, Night”, The John Daly alcoholic beverage, and my favorite lines of poetry:
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”
*What asshole made up that acronym?
*Looking at You Russell Brand!
Tristan Miller is an actor, author, podcaster, and stand up comedian living in Brooklyn, NY.
You can find more information at http://www.tristanjmiller.com