Bipolar is My Boyfriend: I Took a Yoga Class and I’m Still Mentally Ill
Bipolar is My Boyfriend:
I Took a Yoga Class and I’m Still Mentally Ill
A Weekly Column by Kala Wahl
I signed up for a Yoga class to not only fulfill a second semester elective credit, but also to, you know, cure my bipolar disorder or whatever. Meditation, not medication. I thought maybe I could make that phrase a thing. Because not only do doctors recommend exercise to aid with poor mental health conditions, but also Aleks, the kid from Brazil I sat next to on the Megabus. He told me mental illness isn’t real, pills are a sham, and that I just need more sunlight, like one of those potted plants in the window of your grandmother’s house. I thought about what Aleks said. He had mentioned he was interested in a presidential run for 2020, so I had no reason not to trust him. Instead of sunlight, though, I opted for Yoga. I kind of wanted to get a bigger ass out of it too.
A toned derrière and no bipolar disorder—can you imagine that?
I went into the class with a truly open mind. I was about to get pretty damn Namaste. Like those shirts people who generally suck wear that say, Namast’ay Away From Me from like, Forever 21 or something. Maybe I wouldn’t find them annoying anymore. Maybe I would grow to become one with them and understand their secrets. I was excited to finally discover the power of dedicated exercise and my bipolar. I’d hopefully be able to go back to my psychiatrist and tell her she could stop tossing endless amounts of antipsychotics my way. She literally tosses them at me, like a broken pitching machine at a batting cage. I could fart in the middle of my appointment and she’d tell me she has a pill for that. She’d prescribe me like, five different anti-fart medications.
So I went to Yoga. I did the poses. I tried to put my thin, brittle hair into a bun like everyone else’s, and I practiced the breathing just like how the instructor told me to (“In, one…two…three. Out, one…two…three”). I really gave meditation the ole’ college effort. But my mind could only stay quiet for about two minutes before I started thinking about something else. Sometimes my stomach would growl, and I’d think about stopping next door after class at Five Guy’s, or the person next to me would be breathing out of their mouth too loudly and I’d start focusing on that. Nobody likes that noise; it’s wet and heavy. I hate mouth breathers. I don’t totally even like it when people breathe in general.
I went through the motions and tried everything. But it wasn’t until the class’s final that I realized I must have been missing something.
We all sat in a circle on our Yoga mats and gave a five-minute presentation on what we had learned from the class. Chakras-this, crystals-that, blah blah blah. But my ears really didn’t perk up until I heard the word Xanax. Per usual.
The culprit was a string-bean blonde with a monogrammed water bottle and an Om tattoo on her ankle. She brought her own Lysol wipes to class, to clean whatever Yoga mat she grabbed from the classroom’s closet, because they’re—holds nose—stinky or whatever.
“I started doing the deep-breathing meditations outside of class. You know, I think it’s completely cured my depression. I realized I didn’t even have to take Xanax anymore,” the girl said. The room nodded their heads in agreement, and she continued: “I don’t take them and it’s like, I don’t even have anxiety anymore.” The class shook their buns all over the place—man buns, space buns, and those lazy colonial-looking buns. They all nodded their heads yes like their lives depended on it.
Are you fucking kidding me?
This testimonial was coming from a girl wearing Lulu Lemon athletic wear. She said those words with conviction. She said those words as if she felt pleased knowing she had managed to outsmart the medical system; she knew the cure and fuck you if you were still popping pills instead of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth while shitty audio of a thunderstorm plays in the background off of YouTube. Miss I’m Willing to Pay $100 For Athletic Wear over here took this class and now she doesn’t have depression anymore. Where was her sash and tiara? It struck a chord with me. A really, really bad chord. She was lucky I was too sedated, riding off the high of one of my four medications, to start conflict.
What the fuck had I been doing wrong in this class? Why didn’t I get to swear off my medication like this girl? I had only wished deep breathing and twisting my fingers on my lap and chanting vowel-sounds and other nonsensical phrases would wish away my bipolar disorder. It didn’t. I even went two weeks this semester unmedicated, you know—because of self sabotage or whatever—and I couldn’t even make it out of my apartment to class. I was too busy crying off the side of my bed and yelling at the garbage trucks below my window. Is everyone else’s mental illness that easily dismissed?
Because mine isn’t. Medication is a necessity for me. I need it in order to function. And that’s a big word in my life—function. Bipolar disorder is incurable, completely chemical, and it dominates every facet of my life regardless of whether or not I’m shoving my Lithium prescription down my throat. And regardless of whether or not I’m on a Yoga mat twisting my arms and trying not to let my hair fall out of its bun.
But we don’t even have to think about it in terms of bipolar. What about other people with depression? Like, depression depression. Depression that can’t be breathed away or depression that doesn’t magically change with the seasons. Statements like Miss Lulu Lemon’s are dangerous. It fosters this idea that with a healthy diet and good exercise, your mental illness can just poof, be gone! I genuinely think she believes that meditation cured her depression, but I don’t genuinely think she had actual clinical depression then in the first place.
If your mental illness is deep enough and doesn’t disappear by you doing a lap around the track at your local Planet Fitness, you probably need medication. Because this alternative cure of talking a nice stroll in the woods or eating a ball of lettuce is bullshit. If it alleviates symptoms, great. But it’s not going to cure anything—and it certainly didn’t cure my bipolar.
So, if you’re perpetually sad or angry, go get pills. Not the ones from the person in the dorm room over—but legal, prescribed ones. And take Yoga anyways, it was an easy elective.