Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt
World Bipolar Day is March 30th. The theme of this year’s World Bipolar Day is “More Than A Diagnosis”.
Receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is hard. I remember feeling distraught and hopeless for a very long time and worried about what others would think of me. Stigma does that to you. This is why articles like “Just Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder? 20 Tips From Those Who’ve Been There” or “20 Messages for Anyone Who Feels Restricted By A Bipolar Diagnosis” are great because they remind you that you are not alone and are more than your diagnosis (and they show up in your Twitter feed or Facebook feed at just the right time).
I actually managed to finish a book a few weeks ago. This is the first book I have actually finished reading in a long time. The book is called “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson. It is a comforting and funny book (to the point that I was laughing out loud while reading), but also a very honest account of what it’s like to experience anxiety as the following 2 passages demonstrate.
…It’s exhausting being me. Pretending to be normal is draining and requires amazing amounts of energy and Xanax…
One moment I’m perfectly fine and the next I feel a wave of nausea, Then panic. Then I can’t catch my breath and I know I’m about to lose control and all i want to do is escape. Except that the one thing I can’t escape from is the very thing I want to run away from…me. And inevitably it’s in a crowded restaurant, or during a dinner party or in another state, miles away from any kind of sanctuary
I know many of you are nodding your heads and relating to those words. “Pretending” at work and in public is exhausting. Whether we are doing it for ourselves or for the benefit of others – it is exhausting. And the description of a panic attack? We can’t escape our panic because it’s in our mind! It’s not like it’s a mosquito we can flick away or something external we can run from. It’s not that easy.
In many of my posts I talk about anxiety. What I have been trying to ignore is the depression. The dark bipolar depression. My anxiety is still plaguing me. I am managing at work. The drive to work (even thought it’s short) is still hard, and it takes a while to settle in, and until I can eat in the morning. I have a tight chest most of the day at work. But no one notices because I don’t let them notice. I didn’t notice what my mood was until recently, and didn’t realize that I was/am experiencing depression. I fooled myself.
I read this great blog post on the BP Magazine site, “Bipolar Depression Changes My Perception Of The World“, in which the author talks about how her depression takes away her energy, makes her irritable, sensitive and the following passage spoke to me:
I have to remember that I have often been stable before, and I know I have truly enjoyed the world around me, so this memory has to keep me going. I may be looking at life through dark lenses at the moment, but that does not mean that I will never again experience the world as it truly is.
There are many things that I wish people understood about me. Some things I can’t express in words, out loud. I can’t explain my moods sometimes. I can’t and don’t want to justify my need for space or alone time before I go to bed (so I can fall asleep in the right frame of mind). I don’t know when I will feel like doing certain things again. I have to learn to be okay with this.
One day (hopefully sooner rather than later) I will stop looking through the dark lenses. Right now I am grateful for the moments where I experience reprieve from anxiety (and I can attribute some of these moments to my husband making me laugh or trying to distract me with humour). I really am grateful for World Bipolar Day for educating the masses and for making me feel less alone.
I was texting with my friend Mike last week and he asked how I was. I said I didn’t know how to answer that question. It’s true, because I hate saying “I’m fine” when I know I’m not. He didn’t try to probe; I think he had the perfect response, which was, “I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m always here. Anytime, if you want to vent. Or just get your mind off things. Or just for someone to rain truth and praise on you, to remind you of how special and important you are.” This response is perfect because I hate “fluffy” answers – I want the truth, and it made me smile. It’s nice to know we are special and important to someone (and hear it from someone other than our parents/spouses).
A couple days ago, Mike gave me some more encouraging words, which relate to the theme of World Bipolar Day. I was being very hard on myself and said I was selfish and that I felt guilty for being depressed and unmotivated. His response was, “You sometimes need to remember all of the good you do in the world for other people. Realize how successful you have been in spite of your challenges. It’s hard but don’t be so hard on yourself. And if you need a reminder, message me, I’ll remind you.”
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!