I’m open about everything in my life (I’m proud of who I am as a person and what I’ve learned throughout my life and I see no need to hide most things). Some people say I’m too open (like my boss, who pries in order to get information but then goes back and rudely reminds me that I don’t need to share everything). And yes, I’m aware that not everyone needs to hear my feelings or my story (and more importantly, not everyone DESERVES to hear it). But when it comes to mental health, I see literally no reason to not open discuss issues. It is so important to break stigma. And not to be conceited, but I believe I have a certain way of making people understand my mental illness and what it entails. Which means I believe I’m well-equipped to be a force for breaking stigma. I’d even call it a responsibility.
I was in the middle of a deep conversation with a close friend of mine yesterday, and since she loves and cares about me, and since I’m open to discussions that lead ultimately to understanding, we began talking about my bipolar disorder. About how I’ve had a hell of a year dealing with it, and how I’ve been stable for TWO MONTHS and going strong. I kind of reviewed my year, detailing the ups and the downs and the exhaustion of having to repeat them over and over and over. I described the nearly-deranging ascents to where wild hypomanic energy pulls my inner passions and agitated impatience into a tornado that prevents me from sitting still. I brought her with me into the depths of my darkest depressions to date, telling of the hopeless trenches that left me truly unable to perform the most basic functions. I gave facts about neurotransmitters, the ones my brain is basically devoid of, and I taught her why their lack of presence affects me as it does. We talked about how biology, genetics, and environment played a role in my developing such a twisting, chaotic disorders.
And I give her credit: she was interested and asked good questions and made me feel understood and supported. I appreciate that tremendously.
But it was just kind of funny that she was like, “yeah I see some of those symptoms in myself too, actually.” And that’s fine for the most part. It’s really cool to be able to relate to something or someone else, or to at least pull something relatable out of what someone else says in order to understand it better.
I just in those situations, I can’t help but feeling…I dunno. That the severity of my illness is underplayed? Yeah, you have periods of moodiness and yeah that sucks. And okay fine, you’ve been in dark places before, and you’ve worked hard to get out of them. But I’m fairly certain my experiences are far more dramatic and honestly? Just a lot worse.
It isn’t just the friend I saw yesterday who does this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dragged my ass to work in tears, used all of my might to survive the day, and then vent to a coworker who responds with “I know, I understand.”
Like no. You don’t. I appreciate the sentiment but you aren’t fucking bipolar.
I have this whole thing with being given credit where credit it due. I can’t always succeed in the ways I want to succeed, but I’m surviving. I can’t always do the basic things I need to do, but I’m still here. And I feel like that’s something worthy of respect.
Anyway. I think I can explain the little phenomena by saying people want to feel special. They want to feel like they’ve accomplished something important. And when I speak about surviving daily life or terrible episodes with bipolar, it sure as hell comes across as an important accomplishment. As it should, because it is.
Sometimes I’m left to wonder if talking about my bipolar disorder is something that actually makes others feel less-than. Which is fucking ironic, because am I not the one with the sometimes-debilitating, chronic, incurable illness?
I’m not mad at my friend or at people who take part in this quasi-understanding. It’s just that I have curious thoughts about it all.
Does anyone else have opinions on this?