There’s something called multiverse theory. As I understand it, according to multiverse theory, rather than us living in the universe, we live in one of many universes, possibly an infinite number of them.
The theory, or more accurately one of hundreds of articulations of the theory, in my rudimentary, pop culture understanding of it, goes something like this: every possibility eliminates all other possibilities in this universe. But as each happens there is another universe in which another possibility happened.
For instance, if you flipped a coin, it would be equally likely that the coin would land on heads as it would on tails. If the coin lands on heads then it eliminates the possibility of that the coin, on that toss, landing on tails. However, in a different universe, the opposite would have happened. Both outcomes were equally likely, so in multiple universes they both happened. Repeat this for every possibility and you have an infinite number of universes in which every single possibility happens somewhere.
I don’t really get it, and it sounds a little too far out there for me, anyway. From a pragmatic standpoint, even if there were an infinite number of universes in which an infinite number of outcomes all occur somewhere, that doesn’t change the fact that I live in this universe, and I only have access to what happens here.
But what if I could live somewhere else? What if I could live in a different universe? What if I could live in a universe in which whatever caused me to have bipolar, be it genetics or environment or some combination of the two, didn’t happen? Would I chose to live there instead of here? Would I choose to be neurotypical instead of bipolar?
In this universe I barely got through high school. I became symptomatic with what would eventually would be diagnosed as bipolar in my early teens. Looking back at high school there were times when I am certain that I was manic. In one instance in particular I was caught in a roadblock after screaming down US-60 at 120 miles per hour, so focused on making it home by curfew that I didn’t even notice the flashing lights behind me.
In our universe, after high school I enrolled in community college. My stay there was very brief. I failed to pass a single class in two semesters and then I got placed on academic suspension. My academic career was over before it even began.
It would seem like a safe bet to say that I would choose to live in a universe in which those things didn’t happen. It would seem to be a safe bet to say that I would choose to live in a universe in which I was not so crippled with anxiety and panic that I missed all of my classes because I couldn’t make myself get out of the car after driving to school.
It would make sense for me to trade this universe in for one in which I was successful in school. It would make sense that I would trade this universe in for one in which I was successful at work; one in which I could hold down regular employment rather than this one, in which I have regularly lost jobs when cycling towards mania or depression.
Mania, in this universe, has caused me to make all manner of bad decisions. Would I trade that in? Would I live in a universe in which each bad decision was a good one, instead? This is where things get complicated.
My partner and I began dating as teenagers. We were young, stupid, and in love. We had a volatile relationship. We broke up regularly, but we always managed to get back together in a day or two. We were engaged at 19. This was regarded by everyone in our lives as a horrible decision. We had no idea what we were doing. Eventually our volatility caught up with us and the wedding was off. Then she got pregnant and we “had” to get married, and eventually we learned how to really love each other.
Would I choose to live in a universe in which that didn’t happen? Wouldn’t that, in essence, kill off that child? Wouldn’t it kill off what has become a deep, loving relationship that has lasted almost 20 years? How could I choose to do that?
In hindsight much of the volatility in our relationship stemmed from my undiagnosed and untreated bipolar. I could see how she fell for me. I was passionate. I was attractive, or so I am told. I’m sure I was exciting. I was an artist and a musician. I was romantic. I loved to cook, and, as I have tried to convince my sons these many years later, cooking is wooing. Seriously.
But I was also angry, anxious, and paranoid. I made horrible decisions with money. I spent way more than I should have on things that neither of us needed. One time I spent all of our money on a guitar I liked. It made sense to me at the time. I liked the guitar. It was a good price. We had enough money in our account. And so I bought it. We lived on $15 for the next two weeks because of that.
But would I trade that in? Would I rather live in a universe in which I was never symptomatic? Would I rather live in a universe in which everything broke well for me? Would I rather live in a universe in which I was successful, well adjusted, and happy?
Bipolar has made things difficult. It has made things nearly impossible at times, for me and for my loved ones. I have been temperamental. I have been despondent. I have been depressed. I have been suicidal. I have been enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I have been moody, agitated, angry, and full of rage. I have been euphoric, infallible, invincible, and impossible to be around.
But I like who I am now. I like who I have become since my diagnosis and treatment. I am learning to even like who I was before then.
At my best I am compassionate. I am a caring, empathetic person. I am a creator, an artist, a musician, and an incredibly passionate person. I am an activist. I am an advocate. I am an educator. And I am all of these things not despite being bipolar but because of it. And, if not for bipolar, I would not have gotten married so young, and I would not have the amazing family that I have now.
I have destroyed relationships. I have destroyed friendships. I have destroyed myself an awful lot of the time. I have destroyed our finances and my employment on more occasions than I care to admit. And yet out of all of this destruction has come a life that is fulfilling, a life filled with joy, a life filled with purpose.
A life worth living.
I don’t know about this multiverse thing. I have no idea how to even approach the idea of infinite universes. But I do know this. I would not chose any of them over this one. And I would not choose any life over the one that I have right now.