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Many Faces | One Model, One Story

Our latest piece in the One Model One Story series, written by Enoch Li, founder of Bearapy, is about Alice, who lives with bipolar disorder. The accompanying picture, ‘Alice’, by Spanish Photographer Pere Ibañez, is displayed throughout June and July at our Moodlab exhibit at Camera Stylo in Beijing, along with other work from the award-winning series.

Name: Alice Liu Country of Origin: China

Occupation: School Academic Officer

Time in Beijing: 8 years

Many Faces

I want to be “normal” and live without medication. I like smiling all the time. I want to have the same hope and happy smile all the time.

But I cannot.

Underneath that smile – and indeed it felt somewhat weird to be smiling in the camera

when given the opportunity – is frustration, loneliness, doubt, numbness, confusion,

stubbornness, bouts of extreme energy and creativity, and anxiety.

I am bipolar.

It took me a long time of denial before I could accept I was bipolar. I used to think: “Oh lucky that I’m just having depressive episodes and am not someone who can never be normal.”

I thought that at least if I was only depressed, then with anti-depressants, I could somehow live a “normal” life, instead of swinging from between extreme moods of hyperactivity and utmost despair.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought that I was living with depression. But I did not acknowledge the other side of me and the other emotions that came with it. I attributed it to being “young” and not knowing what I was doing – I would get mad at people easily, burn bridges in relationships, whilst enjoying heightened creative moments for my PR job designing posters and writing content. Needless to say, I was a perfectionist too, I had immense trust in my capability and thought I knew it all.

Then, I would crash. I would not be able to sleep. I would be shakingly anxious about my work and life, I would lose weight, not be able to go to work for a month, and sink into an unexplainable depression.

I have lost count the number of times I sat on the window ledge, ready to take my own life and cease to become a burden on my friends and family. Thank goodness my husband was with me.

Imagine the wildest roller coaster ride you have ever been on before, and then times it by 10,000 or more. That is how the emotions swing like a full force pendulum between depressive and manic episodes. Sometimes I do not even know if I can fully control myself.

The complexity of emotions and thoughts in these different states of minds are overwhelming. Even though I want to be happy and smiling all the time, slowly I have come to learn that it is not realistic. In fact, all these emotions make up “Alice”. I have many faces, and so does every one of us. The key is to get to know these faces and emotions, and integrate so they are all part of you. Our inner theatre is more colorful than just a smiling face.

As I journey through the zombie-Alice, the hyper-Alice, the irritated-Alice, the insecure- Alice, the doubtful-Alice, the hopeless-Alice, the joyful-Alice, the anxious-Alice, the numb-Alice, the over-the-moon-bubbly-Alice…. I find more meaning to myself and to life. With bipolar, I have found a purpose in what I could do and contribute by talking to more people about it, reducing the stigma, and hoping that more people will understand our states of mind.

I am Alice, and I have many faces. Normal is overrated anyways.

Author | Enoch Li

Proofread | Katie

Would you like to contribute writing on depression, bipolar or any aspect of mental illness? E-mail to have your story featured.

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