Something that most of the different blogs and articles that I have read over the last few months have in common is there are things that we all have that we wish our friends and family knew that people with bipolar disorder have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Well, here are the things that I wish my friends and family knew that I deal with daily.
Just because I didn’t show up doesn’t mean I didn’t want to be there.
I wish I could control my bipolar episodes and be at the social gathering you had planned. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. When I am depressed, it is very hard to be around people. The depression is emotionally crushing and soul sucking (yes, I said soul sucking). I am sometimes lucky just to make it out of the house to get to the store for food. And if I do in fact make it to your function, telling me to smile more or that I am not making a good enough effort just makes me feel shittier and regret I even came and pretty much guarantees there won’t be a repeat appearance.
Depression is physically painful.
Everyone with depression, with or without bipolar, knows this to be true. Depression is more than feeling down and unmotivated but it also brings with it physical pain.
I have been in several serious car accidents and do suffer from chronic pain. It has gotten better with treatment but any time I see a new doctor and it gets mentioned, they always try to insinuate it isn’t as bad as it seems because I suffer from depression and this is why I am “hurting” so bad. Forget about the fact that in 2005 I rear ended a girl at 55 mph when she ran a stop sign. And I just imagined the head on collision I was back in 2009 (I don’t know exactly how fast I was going but let’s put it this way, I was in a 2004 Mustang and I hit the other vehicle so hard that not only was the vehicle I hit damaged but so were the 3 cars behind him and the engine in my car had shifted so far back it almost came through my dash). And in 2016, the guy who wasn’t paying attention and pulled out in front of me when I was doing 55mph, that wasn’t as serious as we thought it was, my doctor bills only ran up to be $109,000 for shits and giggles. Don’t get me wrong, I am very lucky and I recognize that. But it is really insulting to be told my pain is all in my head when it should be obvious it’s not all in my head. But, yes, depression does make it worse sometimes and I can actually tell sometimes when I am going to have a bad day. For example, today would have been my mother’s birthday. I haven’t done anything that would aggravate my back but it is killing me like I spent the weekend cleaning my house or riding a bunch of roller coasters. But I know it’s because it is just a sad day for me.
I’m not looking for attention.
I can’t really speak for everyone suffering from bipolar, however, I can speak for myself and I would never exaggerate my symptoms to get attention. And I really can’t imagine who would really want to.Batting bipolar is absolutely no fun. If you even happen to get a peek into just how painful it is, generally that means the person with bipolar did not have the strength to hide the symptoms from you.
There are many ways to get attention. On my good days, I would be more likely to seek out some good attention (as my mom used to call it). However, if I am manic or depressed, I am not in control and attention is the last thing that I am thinking about.
No, I don’t always notice how fast I am talking.
From the research that I have done, I have found that crazy eyes and fast talking are two of the top outward signs of a manic episode. Unfortunately, the person is usually unable to recognize these symptoms and any confusion that may be reflected by the person they are speaking with is typically missed.
When/if this happens to you, just please be patient with the person who has bipolar. If you know them well enough, sure, point out how fast they are talking. Otherwise, I recommend just doing your best to keep up and watch for other warning signs. Sometimes we catch ourselves, at least I can. And when I do, I am able to force myself to talk at a normal sped and level (I also will tend to speak much louder than normal). But this is not always the case and I have had people tell me to slow down and lower my voice. If you don’t know the person that well but can’t ride it out, just gently ask then to lower their voice or politely ask them to slow down. They are more than likely aware of the fact that they do it, They just aren’t always aware of when they are doing it.
Fine rarely means fine.
This is really the case for everyone, battling a mental illness or not. In truth, a lot of articles I have come across say that fine means Frustrated Insecure Neurotic Emotional.
Me personally, fine could mean a lot of things. “I’m not fine but I don’t want to get into it.” “I’m not fine but I don’t want to bring you down with my issues” “I’m not fine but if I try to explain to you what is going on in my head I’m afraid you’ll never speak to me again because you will think I am seriously disturbed” “I’m not fine but I don’t know how to explain what is going on inside of my head ” It is just easier to say fine these days. And on top of that, who truly cares?
Sometimes we are stuck in the house.
Just like everyone else, people who suffer from bipolar disorder want to spend time with their friends and family too. It’s just, when the noise inside our head gets so loud that we can’t bear it, the very idea of being around even more voices is pure agony. Just like with any other illness, there are days that a person with bipolar cannot go anywhere.
It’s not because we don’t love you or we don’t want to spend time with you. We are just doing what we can and sometimes taking care of ourselves is the only thing we can do.
There are days where I don’t go anywhere or see anyone. Sometimes I don’t have the motivation to take a shower and make myself presentable. Sometimes I don’t want to interact with people. Sometimes my depression makes me feel so tired that I feel like I am moving through thick mud. Or my depression causes my back pain to flare up which causes me to not want to do anything at all. I often wonder if my family and friends realize how much I want to be with them yet I often feel so drained of energy and emotion I find it hard to face them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them. It is because I love them that I stay away. I don’t want to subject them to the person that I have become. Being around someone who is bipolar can be so very confusing for them and me. Just please understand that it is not you, it’s an internal struggle that most of us battle every single day. Believe it or not, it’s often the fear of abandonment that most often forces us to push others away.
I was diagnosed with bipolar roughly three months ago, however, I have suspected for a few years. It’s no fun. I am well aware of the fact my condition could be a whole lot worse that it is. But that doesn’t make it any easier to live with. I want my friends and family to know how much I truly love them but my depression controls my actions a lot of the time. Hopefully, one day soon, I will be able to overcome that demon, even if it is only for short periods of time. I won’t stop trying.