The first time a doctor told me I had bipolar disorder, I didn’t believe her. Bipolar is a scary word that to me that meant “crazy”, and I didn’t feel crazy. I mean, I got straight A’s in high school! I was the “happy-go-lucky” musician who wrote cute songs on the glockenspiel. I had just done a photo shoot lying in a field of 300 homemade cupcakes. When I wrote sad songs, they were about missing my boyfriend, and… missing my boyfriend. I wasn’t writing about the suicidal thoughts, the loss of control I felt of my body and my emotions. I felt like I was sinking. Suddenly, I had dropped out of university, my closest friends didn’t want to see me anymore, and my boyfriend told me I was “too crazy” and I “needed help”. I felt like I was losing everything.
Striving for Healing with Bipolar Disorder
Before this point, songwriting was just another thing that I did. It wasn’t my life’s purpose, it was just something I had picked up and enjoyed. But now, when I felt like my brain and my emotions were somehow destroying my life, songwriting changed for me. It became a magical thing. The songs began to pour out of me. It was almost like I would go into a trance, and when I woke up, there would be a song. For once, I wrote a song in a minor key. I was heartbroken by the state of my life.
At this point, I googled bipolar and I discovered it was a chronic illness that never goes away. I was more scared than ever. I wanted to cure whatever was wrong with me. I learned secret meditation techniques, I got acupuncture, I bought crystals and herbal medicine. I even went to an alternative doctor who thought I’d feel much better if I just tried LSD. I wanted to be calm and wise and strong and happy, but nothing was working.
The third time I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was in the emergency room in Saint Paul’s hospital on boxing day. The psychiatrist told me not to be afraid of the diagnosis. At this point, I wasn’t afraid. I was a girl on a mission. I was sick of this and I was going to get better.
I needed a way to tell people what was going on. I felt alone. I remember sitting down at the piano and thinking I had to write the truth. I had been bawling all night, and I thought “This isn’t time for poetry, I need to say exactly how I feel out loud. No editing out. No metaphors.”
I wrote about overdosing. I wrote about side effects of pills. I wrote about panic attacks. I wrote about being ugly and angry and scary. And I noticed, my songs started having more of an effect on people. I got emails from people telling me they could see a light at the end of the tunnel, just knowing they were not alone in feeling this way.
I want to give this story a happy ending, but I’m not there yet. I spent the next year looking for the cure, only… there isn’t one. My psychiatrist told me that from day one, yet I still wasn’t ready to hear it. The truth is, no one ever arrives. There is no “better” for any of us. We are always getting better and worse and better and worse, Bipolar is just an exaggerated version of that. I remember seeing this Douglas Coupland quote at his exhibit in the art gallery last September. When I read it, it hit me right in the heart.
“It doesn’t go away, you just learn how to live with it.”
It’s beautiful how plain it is, how truthful. He broke down the last 6 years of my life into one sentence. To me, that’s art. That is what I want to do with my music. I’m still in the process of accepting my illness and learning how to live with it. The truth is, it’s a part of me. It makes me the musician I am today. I can work with it or against it… it’s not going anywhere, but neither am I.
Author, Sarah Jickling
Listen to Sarah’s unique and creative music on
her YouTube Channel called Sarah Jickling and her Good Bad Luck.