All posts by Scout

Stuck between depression and dysphoria

If you read my previous post, you’d know that last week was a bit rough. This weekend I went to a cousins wedding, which I really didn’t want to do. Mostly because I needed time by myself and loads of sleep. I am working two jobs at the moment and I am just not getting around to everything. I have clients treating me like dirt and my multi-tasking muscle seems to be broken. I was already emotional about all of this, plus the anniversary and something and old friend of mine, who’s a beauty queen, wrote about her own bipolar struggle. Then I had to pretend to be all fine and then attend the wedding the next day.

Our family is massive and everyone was there, including my brother and friends I hadn’t seen in ages. So it was okay. But there was also this woman there, a friend of my sister’s, who I had previously tried to make friends with when we sat next to each other at a wedding, and which really failed in the end. I asked her if she just liked guys (she’s a hunter after all and basically only has guy friends), and when she said yes, men all the way, I just said oh because I’m bi, I always just wonder. Somehow when I was my clingy self which is what borderline personality traits along with a good dose of anxiety make you, she got it in her head that I was in love with her or something. Even though she said it wasn’t that and I just had too much drama. This was after she had ignored me for about a month, which made my anxiety shoot through the roof. I tried to explain. She didn’t care.

So I said a few things because I felt hurt and rejected, and left it at that. A month or so later I thanked her for helping my sister with stuff left over from my dad’s will (the Chartered Accountant and the Lawyer, so important). I never discussed her with ANYONE, least of all her friends. But as my sister mentioned, she knew everything. And at the wedding, the woman had the audacity to gossip about me to my brother. And he came straight to me. I tried to talk to her but she said that there was no reason and she had no issues. So in the wee hours of the morning I sent her a text about how she’s in MY house and here she is the outsider and I will not tolerate gossiping to my family etc. And the next day I felt like the worse human ever, because I am not actually a bitch like that and maybe she didn’t deserve is. I blocked her of facebook and she block me off messenger. Probably for the best. Yet, if she shows up somewhere and starts talking to me, I’d have a conversation. I don’t know if I’M the asshole or if SHE’s the asshole. I do feel aweful, but trying to make peace just won’t work. I’ll make everything worse yet again.

Bear with me, it all fits in together. As the night past I became more and more furious, drinking more and more jager bombs and brand and wine and whatever. Knowing I had to stop but not doing it. Falling of my heels a few times, because all the meds. My brother got my key when it was time to leave, but I was so angry I wanted to drive the 2 hours home. So I slapped him through the face. Twice. I shouted at him and his friend who is a girl who he loves about why they weren’t together. My whole body is full of bruised. I twisted my ankle and somehow I ended up with my head behind the toilet and I didn’t even know how I got there. I completely blacked out, like I hadn’t before I started taking Lithium. Plus I haven’t had more than 2 glasses of wine in like…months.

I feel really stupid. For everything I said and did. I’m never an angry drunk, but it was obviously reflective of my mood. And now I’m raging and irritable and depressed all at the same time. I want to pack a bag, load my cats and my dog, and disappear. But my sister will have the whole ‘you skrew up everyone’s live’s speech.

Has anyone watched NCIS New Orleans where the one guy is bipolar and he disappears for years at a time? I’d really love to just do that.

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Am I expected to apologise for my suicide attempt?

Today, crossing into tomorrow, is the two year anniversary of my suicide attempt. I’ve had a really rough week and so I’ve already been feeling emotional all day. Then I made a comment on our family whatsapp group, to which my sister replied quite snottily, and then all hell broke loose. My mom phoned my sister to come over and even though I asked her to wait until I had calmed down from my overwhelming emotions. She had decided that my sister and I would sort out our issues for once and for all. There is a seven year gap between us, so we’ve never really been in the same phase of our lives at the same time.

Firstly she told me that last year, and at the start of this year, before she got married, that every time she talked about wedding stuff with anyone, I would turn the conversation to myself. Maybe I did do that, but I have absolutely NO recall. Apparently I made snotty remarks at the bachelorette. Like… what?! I really put a lot of effort into that and I can’t remember being snotty at all! So according to my sister she still made me her maid of honour even though I was a total bitch, because that’s what sisters do. When I asked her why she didn’t invite me to social events, she simply replied that her friends didn’t like me and that they didn’t know what to talk to me about. Especially the guys. They are a couple of years younger than I am, but surely?! I am freakin friendly to everyone when I am not making sarcastic jokes.

Yes, I speak my mind. I say what I think and how I feel. But how is true and authentic expression a bad thing?! I don’t understand, should I lie just to make people feel better, or less offended? It turns out that my sister and her friends have continuously been gossiping about me. Of course, that makes me feel like a complete fool, as I’ve really tried to get these people to like me and be my friends.

But the main, catastrophic things that my sister is livid about, is that I have never apologised to her, or to anyone else, for trying to commit suicide and completely disrupting their lives. Just thinking about it makes me tired. It was the absolute worse day of my life. My thoughts had become obsessed in a way no one would be able to understand. I try to explain, but she doesn’t really listen. She says that I am exactly like my father, the addict and alcoholic, for blaming my illness for everything. I refused to apologise for a major symptom, the cause of death, of serious mental illness, and then she freaked out. She YELLED at me: “Suicide is not an illness! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and pull yourself together!”

I am so extremely hurt and it feels like my voice has been stolen. The whole reason I came back to this sleepy, crappy time, was for my family to support me. There is nothing of that at all. Yes, they say that they don’t understand, but they also have no compassion and don’t try to understand either.

I need to get out of here; find a full time job so I can get the hell away. I have never felt as ashamed, hurt, like a failure, gaslighted, manipulated, gossiped about, misunderstood and discriminated against as I feel right at this very moment. I feel SO hurt about how my family says they feel like their walking on eggshells because what if I try to self-harm or kill myself? Even though I work SO hard on my mental health and haven’t wanted to self-harm in months. They think like I just sit around and sleep and do nothing; even though they know my level of ambition and what I have accomplished in the past.

I don’t undertsand why I’m being ostracised in this town and why my own family can’t come up for me. I don’t understand why they don’t tell me that stuff is going on. I don’t even know how to look them in the eye anymore.

Unexpected triggers

In my case, I guess no news is good news. I obviously don’t have much to say when I’m doing well. Which I was. I guess I’m still okay. Normally this time of the year is bad. We are after all on the eve of my 2-year suicide attempt anniversary. But this post is not about that. It’s about how you are merrily going about your day for a month or two, almost forgetting about the whole bipolar story, except for all the pills. When it looks like things are coming together with work and personal and life in general, and then BAM!! something happens that throws you completely off balance. In my case, the BAM came last week Thursday.

A colleague decided to just up and resign effective immediately, throwing everyone for a loop. I didn’t really care, until I realised that she hadn’t even told her clients, that she possibly stole and that her admin was such a complete and utter mess that it took me two days to figure out her client list. Then I had some of her clients just trampling all over my boundaries, another one cancelling her contract because she didn’t feel comfortable with me, and one of my clients peppering me with insults about something that was her fault. And this is only my one job!

I am doing some freelance work for my previous employer too and while I enjoy it, it is a lot of work. Everything falls into the ‘urgent and important’ category, you spend your time problem solving crisis on crisis on crisis. You really have to concentrate and multi-task; skills that are a bit rusty. And so I’ve been freaking out since, well, last week Friday I guess. My major problem is that I lose my filter and I get the bipolar rages, not good when working with clients. Especially when I know I’m right.

Basically, I’m not hypomanic or depressed, but I can see things moving into dysphoria if I don’t get it under control. We have our care plans and our everyday checks and a whole lot of things we do to stay balanced, but an unexpected trigger is, well, unexpected. It doesn’t give you time to prepare. If you are not with someone who understands you really well, no one will notice the anxiety, rage and general mood shift taking place until it’s too late.

Here are a few tips that I have found helpful:

  • always have an emergency script or emergency meds with you; something that you know chill you out.
  • Stay away from alcohol and other drugs. Yes, normally it will chill you out, but it can also flip you. And you lose the little self-control you have and do something stupid.
  • This one is very important: STAY AWAY from your phone and especially social media and email for at least an hour. As long as you have to.
  • If you don’t have a wedding every weekend like I do at the moment, take a day or two to chill out and unwind. Order your favourite food and beverage, and spend the day on a hobby in front of the TV or with a book. I normally prefer to be alone, but if you know you need someone to just hang with you, phone a friend or family.
  • SLEEP. Whatever you do, make sure you get your necessary hours of sleep; it give our brains time to process and keeps you from doing something stupid.
  • Write it out, on a blog or in a diary. There was a time that what went on in my head was SO dark that I avoided any writing in any form. Do what works for you.

By no means do I have it all figured out. Yesterday and today I communicated in very snotty ways, and sometimes to people who didn’t deserve. I get super irritated and mean. Not a nice person. But the things above help eventually.

What do you do when you realised that you have suddenly been triggered unexpectedly (ie not on Christmas or the anniversary of someone’s death)? Please share what works for you, so we can all help each other to be healthier, more stable humans.

Bipolar, addiction and the entertainment industry: What Demi Lovato can teach us

Before you decide to pass up on yet another lay person’s opinion on Demi Lovato’s overdose, I want to assure you that this isn’t just more unsubstantiated claims about a celebrity I know nothing about. This is a blog about bipolar disorder, and so this post is exactly about that.

Here’s the thing about Demi though; since I was diagnosed in 2015 and found out that she is bipolar too, I’ve been pretty jealous. Of her and all other bipolar celebrities. I have a brother who works in Hollywood, and I know of the ridiculous schedules that lead to a lack of sleep, the crazy pressure, the substance abuse and the parties, the hectic travel, rehearsals, ridiculous deadlines etc. I’ve also opened a People magazine in my life. And so I’ve always wondered, about the young Demi specifically, how on earth do you overcome an eating disorder, addiction AND manage bipolar disorder when you lead the insane and unnatural lifestyle of a musician?! And at such a young age!

I don’t really like her music to be honest, but I’ve been following her on Instagram for a long time for the reasons above. I’ve seen snippets of her current world tour and I have wondered how the ef she does it. My conclusion was that she must have A LOT of support, and I did see her mother on some of her videos. I also read something about a sober coach, that she apparently fired. But I don’t know anything else about the people in her life. She can’t be on anti-psychotics because being sedated won’t work. So imagine how little she sleeps! At best she can be on anti-depressants and a mood stabiliser, if she’s on anything. She won’t be able take addictive sleeping pills or anxiety meds like benzos.

Would it be any wonder then if at some point during her tour, she started to become manic? People might not even realise it because of all the adrenaline pumping. It is very difficult to find a support group when you are in a different city every other day, and with people being people, how could a celebrity feel comfortable sharing with strangers? Those of us in the know, know that if you don’t keep your lifestyle in check, you’re going to experience symptoms, no matter what meds you take. It’s possible that she wasn’t eating right because she was too busy. With every sleepless night and every performance, her mania would have worsen. Her inhibitions would have lowered and her life would have spinned out of control. Queue partying and alcohol. Queue drug use.

I have read very mean comments online, from people who think she’s “just” a junkie and should know better, and I think people forget that she is only 25 and has already gone through more than what most people go through in a lifetime. I was certainly a total mess at that age! My point? The general public is quick to think that celebrities are fair game. The press and paparazzi can’t care less that Demi is a very young girl with serious mental health issues. The Bipolar Community was quick to put her on a pedestal when she “came out”, yet many see addiction and overdose in a different “class” of mental illness, instead of what it is here – a symptom of a larger HEALTH problem.

She’s a very beautiful and talented girl, and she has many years of performing left in her, so I hope she can overcome yet again and perhaps learn how to do what she does at a slower pace and in a healthier way. Her story should be a lesson for all of us suffering from any sort of mental illness – always be vigilant, always focus on your mental health, have people around you who can help keep you in check, always take your meds, take it easy when you need to and ALWAYS be kind to yourself and others like you.

How being diagnosed with Bipolar changes your life

I guess this is not a huge revelation. I’m pretty sure most if not all bipolar ‘diagnosees’ will tell you the same thing; after your diagnosis nothing is the same again. It might not be that your circumstances changed (although many times it should), but learning that certain thoughts and behaviours are due to a mental illness if very overwhelming at first. You struggle to figure out who you really are. You don’t know what is personality, and what is illness. You start taking all these pills that may or may not work, you see psychologists and psychiatrists. To me, it felt like I picked up this huge external weight that I have to carry around, but that was still part of me and something I wasn’t allowed to share with other people.

If you follow my blog you would know what a drastic turn my life took when I tried to commit suicide, because my bipolar disorder had me so convinced that it was my only option, with my obsessive thoughts and pain on the inside. People often thing it’s selfish, or a cry for help, or your life sucks or whatever. To me, it was simply losing the battle that has raged in my head every single day in a loop “kill yourself, kill yourself kill yourself”. I had no control. I tried for MONTHS to control it. I was so tired. And don’t think for a second that anyone is interested in the grimy details of why you wanted to die and how you didn’t. People are really not interested in hearing your story.

I don’t believe in regrets, but trying to commit suicide is the one thing that I would take back in a heartbeat. Because of it, because of my bipolar disorder, everything important was taken away from me. I spent six months in my home town not changing, rarely showering, barely leaving the house, not seeing or making any friends, because I was completely incapable. For a year, I didn’t have to worry about cash either, until I had to. Until I’ve reached a stage where I have to ask my mom to buy me toilet paper and food. Now I’m just stuck in a small town unable, with all my qualifications, to get a ‘real’ job, because there simply aren’t any. Oh and have I mentioned that I’m moving in with my parents at the end of the month? This is the most shameful of all, to me. I’ve been independent and looking after myself since 16.

I have an interview in the city next week; a job right up my ally. Pretty much my dream job that I gave up a long time ago because work is scarce. I have to admit, I am terrified. I don’t want to move back to the city, even though I have lots of friends there. Life here is just so much less complicated. But I am literally starving I’m so poor, and my life can’t go on like this.

For all of this; this whole story; I blame my bipolar disorder. And I can’t talk to people about it, because they don’t know that I am on close to 250 pills a month, and that my tremour is not blood sugar, but Lithium, that for most of the day if I stand up, I have vertigo, that sometimes I just stay in bed crying all day. That I feel useless and ashamed and sorry for myself often. I don’t have anyone to bear witness of this part of my life. And so it makes me more socially awkward, and even more scared of abandonment. Because I am either SUPER clingy or a closed book. And the new people I meet don’t understand the context and so they don’t understand why I am the way I am.

Because a Bipolar diagnoses changes EVERYTHING. Every single aspect of your life, from your physical health to your employment to your sleep, relationships (or lack thereof) with someone special, your friends or your family. And while you change, they don’t. Everyone else goes on with their merry lives. And no one really bares witness to yours. Once you have that diagnosis, you can try to ignore it, but there is no turning back. Not if you want history to keep repeating itself. So you try to get back on the horse of life, even when no one understands how hard it is. Even when no one understands that you’re absolutely terrified.

Is there a downside to creating awareness?

You may or may not know that May is mental health awareness month. Apart from social media, there isn’t really much I can do in the way of busting the stigma. Where I live, it’s still very much a reality. Then I read an article about triggers and it got me thinking about some things that happened in my life and the combination of events that lead to this.

Even as a child, I knew that I was depressed, I just didn’t know that what I felt could be classified as illness. I didn’t know that something could be done about all the terrible feelings going crazy inside my head. And awareness in that case would have been great! But then I thought about the first time I contemplated suicide. I think I was about 14 or 15. Suicide had never even remotely cross my mind, even though I was in a terrible emotional state. One day, one of my mother’s magazines were lying on the coffee table and I was just randomly paging through it when I found this article, addressed to parents, about how to handle your child if he/she is suicidal or has attempted suicide. For the first time, I realised that there was a way out. Luckily the younger, confused me was too scared to actually do anything. I did however have suicidal ideations on and of, well, until now.

Similarly, I never thought of self-harm. Even as a dark and twisty teenager I never considered that hurting myself would make me feel better. Until I met someone when I was already in my mid-twenties, who became a friend, confided in me about her self-harm. And then one day I was feeling awful and getting drunk by myself, and I finally had enough courage to give it a go. And of course the more you do something like that, the more you want to do it.

Am I making sense? Of course people should be made aware of  mental illnesses, the symptoms, the treatment, etc. But I think the point I’m trying to make is that those of us who already have this awareness, who have been around the block, who know the ins and outs of our particular illness have a responsibility to think before we share, especially online. Like giving trigger warnings. We need to use our experiences and the information we have wisely so that we make sure that we do good, and not harm.

Just add another diagnoses to the pile

I had a very interesting appointment with my psychiatrist last week. I wanted to write it earlier, but I’ve had to think about it a bit.

Before and after I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, Dr Google and I self-diagnosed loads. Generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD, plain ol’ depression, OCD; I’m pretty sure I even diagnosed myself with hypochondria (little joke there). Doctors have diagnosed me with depression (nope), cyclothymia (like what is that anyway?) and eventually with what I knew deep down all along – Bipolar 2. After my suicide attempt 1 therapist and 1 psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder, and then 1 therapist and 1 psychiatrists un-diagnosed me about 6 month later. I can appreciate that psychiatry is not an exact science.

When my psychiatrist suggested that I might suffer from social anxiety, it made perfect sense to me. In fact, I had been thinking about because if something required me making a phone call or meeting new people, I just did do it. The thought paralysed me. To get to the point, last week I’m sitting in the Doc’s office and complaining about a bunch of adult things that I have to do but just don’t because it’s too much effort and I don’t feel like it and now my mother is pressuring me to get my shit in order. So, he gives me this sideways glance and knowing smile and says: “I’ve been thinking, don’t you think you suffer from a degree of ADHD?” Shocked into silence. Like I mentioned, I have diagnosed myself with EVERYTHING; ADHD has never crossed my mind. I ponder, “Maybe the inattentive type, but I am definitely not hyperactive.” (some days I would even describe myself as sloth-like)

What made this interesting, was that just a few days before that, a friend of mine suggested that I talk to the doc about taking a small dose of Ritalin. I was complaining because exams are in a month and I basically haven’t even opened a book. Also I’m sleeping more than 12 hours and it’s just no way to live. I keep telling people that I need a necklace to just hang all my keys around my neck, and that if my head wasn’t attached to my body, I’d probably lose it. So as the doc kept going through behaviours and symptoms, I suddenly saw myself and my life in a totally different light. I believe it’s late onset, because I was a very together and responsible child. A couple of things are confusing, because some of the symptoms do overlap with bipolar symptoms, but I am doing a lot of research and there are some fantastic youtube channels out there. I did get my small dose of Ritalin, so far it’s not like I feel different or anything, but I haven’t lost anything, so I guess it is working. Not so stoked about taking MORE meds though.

I shall keep you appraised about how this works out. I really hope that it does help with focus, as I am going to fail if I don’t start studying quite soon. I also need to get my routine in order so I am not constantly frazzled and behind with everything all the time. Wish me luck and success on my new ADHD inattentive type, Ritalin journey.

Subcontracting responsibilities to survive your bipolar

If you’re bipolar, you know the story when it comes to being semi-catatonically depressed. I’m talking about those days/weeks/months where you feel like you are actually fusing with your bed. Dishes pile up. laundry piles up, the sandbox doesn’t get cleaned. In fact, nothing gets cleaned. Not the floors and not the coffee table and not your bedroom. You spend everyday barely moving through dirt and chaos, wearing the same pants you’ve worn for the last three days. If you have to go to work you get yourself to look semi-presentable, but if anyone scratched even a millimetre below the surface, they’d see how you’re coming undone.

The thing with a situation like this is, the deeper you go, the deeper it gets, the deeper you go. It become an uncontrollable cycle of despair. The more dishes, the more useless and helpless you feel, the more dishes you use, until there are organisms growing on things and you actually just want to throw all your belongings on the sidewalk. By now, you probably also feel like a completely lazy waste of oxygen.

It was on one such occasion that I finally realised things could not go on like that. I needed help and I needed it fast. The first thing I bought the second I saved enough money, was a washing machine. Here in my country, it doesn’t come standard with apartments. So finally my days of slogging to the laundromat, rinsing underwear in sink and wearing my jeans until they fell off, were over. In my country it’s also not frowned upon to have a cleaner at least once a day. It’s something that alleviates poverty somewhat, and creates jobs. I ended up paying my cleaning lady, a wonderful, sweet woman, about triple the minimum wage, because to me she wasn’t just cleaning, she was helping me to keep my sanity.

I recently didn’t have a cleaning lady for over a month. Even though I tried my best to keep my place clean and tidy, it felt like my life was getting completely out of hand. I just don’t have the capacity to work, have a hobby, attempt a social life, sleep enough, walk my dog AND scrub my bloody toilets. I just can’t do it. Not even to mention the dishes. So I finally got a lovely lady to clean for me and it’s going well. I’m actually using my study for the first time since I moved in. What also really changed my life was getting a dishwasher. Yes, I am only one person. I don’t care. Washing pots and pans with pieces of food and soggy mince freaks me the fck out. Seriously. I don’t have OCD, but it still causes too much anxiety that I just don’t need.

So I unashamedly used other people and appliances to literally do my dirty work. Sometimes it gets expensive and I have to cut on other things. I would rather not eat (and I already quit smoking) than not pay my cleaning lady.

When I can’t pay for help, like eg when I’m moving (again) in two months’ time, I have learned to lean on my family. My mother is a master packer, my new brother-in-law has a trailer, my stepdad can round up a bunch of workers and my sister can pretend she’s got way more important things to do (may she never read this). When my washing machine was broken, I took my clothes to my mom’s and did it there. I’m still borrowing her vacuum cleaner once a week.

The point is that, even when we don’t have extra money for extra help, we all have people around us that care about us, even if it doesn’t feel that way. If you have kids, make them help out with chores. My biggest challenge has been making my loved ones understand why I need help, and a dishwasher. Just having my environment feel clean and organised helps my brain to feel a little more clean and organised, and it’s a great feeling. Ask for help, or don’t be ashamed to pay for help if you can if it helps make you feel a bit better, it’s worth it 100%.

When isolating myself is for your own good

Whether you read a list on the internet, in a book, receive the lecture from you doctor, one of the first things they will tell you is that when you feel depressed, don’t isolate. They make it sound so easy, like just inviting someone over for a cup of coffee is not a big deal. Hello? Do you not know that depression usually goes along with crippling anxiety?

I’ve decided to make this work for me. I started singing in an ensemble at the beginning of the year. I like choir singing and it’s great to get my voice ‘back in shape’ to hit those high notes. But it’s in the evenings and often inconvenient. Since we’ll be taking part in a pretty big competition, we are also practising the same pieces over and over and over with a metronome at a very slow pace.

The last two weeks I haven’t been doing so well, including driving my car into a pole this week. I have stress about money and moving, I’m not sleeping without something pharmaceutical. Generally, things are not going as they should and I can feel the person sitting on my chest getting fatter and fatter.

So I’ve been thinking of a thousand excuses not to go to choir practise tonight. I feel kind of bad because I had to miss a couple due to physical illness. But the thought of going to a house with 30 people, where I only really know two, repeating those songs, and worse of all that bloody metronome that feel like it’s knocking against my skull, just wouldn’t have worked. And then you have to be all chirpy and keep the sarcasm in check, which becomes a problem with irritability. I just couldn’t do it.

The idea of having to just talk to people along with my social anxiety just made it impossible for me. So I let the conductor know that I have some chronic health issues that are flaring up and so I can’t be there. And actually saying made me feel so liberated. I wouldn’t have gone two days before I broke my arm or something, so why go when depression is starting to rear its ugly head. No one has to know what is wrong with me, that is my business, but just because I don’t look sick from the outside doesn’t mean I’m not sick

When your so good at hiding your bipolar symptoms, you even hide them from yourself

I was diagnosed in my mid-20s. I’ve at least grown considerably since then. One thing I’ve grown in but have not yet mastered, is self-awareness. Probably every therapist I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many, have told me that I am not self-aware.

I’ve never been a devil-may-care kind of person. I worked incredibly hard to get into university, at university (I played hard too), and during my time climbing the corporate ladder. I’ve been described by various people throughout my life with the following terms: perfectionist, hard working, smart, diligent, trustworthy, friendly, respectful etc. Ie, not someone who says skrewit and does something irresponsible because they want to. I had to be all these things. I had to work my ass off, because I know I had no safety net. I knew I’d have to pave my on way. And I did, at the cost of my own sanity.

Because while I was all of these things, I had a dark side too. Everyone has a dark side, but when you have bipolar disorder it’s even darker. I smoked and started drinking at 15. I think I wrote my first poem about death at 14, because that was the first time I wanted to kill myself. Everywhere I turned I tried to talk to grown-ups about what I was feeling, but I couldn’t, I didn’t know how. No one saw the signs. No one was LISTENING. No one saw me crying myself to sleep every night. Because I learned to put on that smile. I wasn’t even pretending that everything was okay, it WAS okay.

Fast forward to adulthood, diagnoses, and my teenage years finally making sense. I’ve been in psychiatric clinics three times. Twice I did the whole 3 week full programme. Different clinics, different doctors. And here’s the crux:

  • Week 1: Hang around kind of disinterested, attend groups, make intellectual arguments, not sure why I’m even there, tell the doc I’m wasting everyone’s time. Another patient even looked at me and said perplexed “Why are you here, you look so HAPPY?” My answer? A smile.
  • Week 2: Cry. Whether it is at a group session, dining room, with a doctor or getting my meds, I cry. I can’t stop. I cry in the shower and I cry myself to sleep. Whether or not you give me drugs, I cry and I can’t stop crying. I don’t want to see anyone I know either. I don’t want to see anyone, actually. I write letters to my inner child. I feel like I’m physically dying from the pain I feel on the inside.
  • Week 3: The crying lessens and stops. I feel like a load has been lifted. My meds start working. I start sitting outside and talking shit with the smokers. I laugh with everyone about my crying marathon.

And this has twice been my unplanned process. Why? Because I am not self-aware. I do not see my signs, or I think that it’s not THAT bad. I put on my smile and I suppress everything that I know my world can’t handle. Everything I CAN’T feel, because my little card house will then fall apart, again. So I get smashed, self-harm, listen to music I know is actually triggering, and try to drink and cut out my anger. Because I don’t know how to exernalise it.

Here is the point of this whole thing: Why do we internalise, and why do we put on our happy masks every day so that it becomes so natural we can’t take it off? For the ones we love. Because we know they want to understand but they can’t. And they want to be supportive but even those who understand the full impact, don’t really. In my case, when I get criticised like again today I want to yell: “It’s because I’m BIPOLAR, asshole! And you know that.” But I just smile, make a little joke, and walk away.