Having a bipolar disorder is like keeping a pet dinosaur.

You live your life everyday doing everyday things, while out of the corner of your eye, you keep an eye on your dinosaur. Let me give you an example. In the car, you buckle up your dinosaur into the back seat. Driving along, it’s as if he isn’t even there. I say he because my dinosaur is a boy. There are plenty of girl dinosaurs as well, I just happen to have a boy. I refuse to name him though. I do this as a power play. It is unfortunate, however, that he does know my name.

I’m the only one who can see him. It could become very troublesome explaining why I walk alongside a dinosaur. He’s quite invisible. Last night I had to make a stop at Walmart, one of his favorite stores. I tried to think of any way I could avoid this errand. I was willing to go to two different stores. But, no, I feed abandoned cats in the neighborhood and it’s really the only place with affordable bulk cat food. Sigh, it’s 4:00 pm. I can just imagine the chaos inside. Surprisingly, it goes smoothly. I have the dinosaur seated safely in the cart and we careen through the aisles. I threw ice cream in the cart for a treat along with the cat food. I remembered I needed a birthday card. On a whim, I went into the hair salon and had three inches of hair cut off for the unbelievably low price of $12.88, to fix the mess I’d made earlier hacking away at my hair. Sidebar: Why do all prices end in 88 cents at Walmart? Has extensive marketing research been done to prove this is the most appealing price point? Another Walmart annoyance.

But nonetheless, I was looking good now, had gathered all my items, and my dinosaur had fallen asleep in the cart.

Self-checkout is the greatest new grocery innovation for controllers like me. I can check prices, bag my things properly, and take as long as I please. I feel like I’m playing a store cashier game and I find small joy in this role play. So I’m waiting for my turn. Half of the stations are for cash, half are for electronic payment. Most Walmart shoppers pay cash, I’ve noticed, so I rarely wait long because I use my debit card. I quickly climb to first in line. Happy happy happy at Walmart. Take my picture.

Out of freaking nowhere, Tall Blonde Young Man flies by me and runs for the electronic payment station that’s just been vacated. Dinosaur stirs. I’m still reeling from the wave of his wind tunnel in disbelief. I’m a person of order. Wait, what? I turn to the woman behind me and mutter that I suppose I must have moved too slowly for him. He had come up from at least three carts behind me. Dinosaur is now wide awake and watching me. Girl behind me says, well, that’s for credit cards. I respond yes, I know. I can’t even make eye contact with the dinosaur because I know he’s seething over this vagrant display of queue bad manners.

In a few minutes, another station opens, fortuitously right next to Rude Boy. My dinosaur has now climbed out of the cart and is jumping up and down next to me. “C’mon. SAY something. Tell him he cut in front of you. Cuts. He took cuts. No cuts!” I’m already well into the cashier game, separating my food and nonfood items, double bagging the ice cream. I’m still a little annoyed, too. But, shit. Is it really worth giving in to the dinosaur? If I give in to this tantrum, he’s just going to think it’s acceptable behavior. I really do need him to learn who has the power here. It doesn’t help that Rude Boy is kind of cute. I’m going to rag on that stuff? I think not. Get in the cart, dinosaur, we’re done here. It wasn’t perfect, but it is our nemesis Walmart. It’s as good as it gets.

So this is life with a dinosaur. And this was only yesterday. Just one day. It is a constant battle of wills. A never ending power struggle that I must always work to win. If I don’t, the consequences can be disastrous with immense collateral damage. He survives on pills that I feed him every morning and every night. Without this fuel, he becomes unmanageable. It’s very difficult for me sometimes because of the fact that he’s invisible. His foibles and follies appear to be my own. I’ve tried to explain to people—no, it’s not me, it’s my dinosaur who does these terrible things, who wants to stay home alone, who stays quiet for long periods of time and gets sad for no reason. And sometimes he spends my money on things I can’t afford and has not so great judgement in men. But no, all they see is me. Not my dinosaur.

In a funny kind of way, I do love my dinosaur and we’ve become quite attached over the years of a sometimes tumultuous marriage. We have known each other for such a long, long time. He makes me brave, creative, and so different from everyone else. Quirky. Sometimes we laugh at how ridiculous the world is and how they’d never understand our crazy relationship. Deep down, I think he knows I have the power, and over the years we’ve come to a truce of sorts.

Having a dinosaur is actually rather amusing. Just remember who’s the boss

Learning she had Bipolar Disorder I as an adult, Dori has used her tumultuous journey of diagnosis, noncompliance, hospitalizations, and ultimately acceptance and self-advocacy to tell her story to others to share the “oh, me too” moments for people to understand they are not alone in their mental illness journey.

She has a Tumblr blogspot; is an author on Ask A Bipolar; created the Facebook Diary Of An Arizona Girl; is an artist and writer; and a frequent blogger advocating mental health awareness. Dori holds an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno and worked for 20 years as a government project manager. She lives in Arizona with her beloved dog and cat. She also has a grown son in Portland, Oregon who very much resents being introduced after her pets. But she she loves him the most!


You can find Dori at…

Twitter: @doriowen