Ok, so a few posts ago I mentioned how I, before finally turning to medication, tried to control my mood swings with a few preventive steps. Granted, in the end these actions by themselves just didn’t cut it anymore, but I’m glad I waited so long before I did, because it gave me the time I needed to get to know myself, and my triggers. That is not to say that I think that everyone should wait before taking their medication, but I do think it’s important to reflect and be honest about what ones personal needs are instead of turning to medical help all too quickly. Partially because ones environment or the people around you can do so much damage that medical just by itself, probably won’t have the “cure” one hopes for. Partially it’s also because if one continues to live according to the norms and preconceptions of how one should live, despite it not correlating to ones own needs, one will constantly be attempting to be live up some kind of standard that isn’t even realistic, or trying to achieve something that just doesn’t coincide with ones own being. All of this is of course applies to everyone, but I think this especially rings true in the case of people like me who are hypomanic, and so very are (often irrationally) affected by our surroundings. Basically, honesty to oneself and honesty to oneself about ones environment.
This, I admit was second nature to me, because I both moved around a lot, to various countries, and had parents coming from two culturally very different countries. The consequence was that I never really grew up with the idea that there was just one correct way of behaving or being. I also had parents that never tried to conform to societal conceptions of what is correct and true. This in turn made it easier for me (with a lot of support from them) to be able to find my own path through the winding roads of being depressed, and at a later stage, becoming bipolar.
Which takes me to the part about being honest that is probably the hardest, because of our innate fear of not being accepted, loved, and/or valued. Maybe it was thanks to all the things mentioned in the former paragraph that this was even a possibility for me. I’ve never been secretive about the fact that I’m bipolar, and I honestly think its because I don’t really make a deal of it, that people don’t really think of it as an issue. I’ve normalised it, so the people around don’t think it’s a big deal. I remember a man I once met telling me later in the evening after we’d been talking for a few hours that he had never mentioned to anyone that he suspected that he himself was bipolar until he mentioned it to me earlier in the evening. He barely realised that he had done it either because, he said, “you told me about you being bipolar as if it was the most natural thing ever, that it just didn’t feel like a strange thing to mention”.
In truth (we are, after all speaking about honesty in this post), I’ve noticed this several times; by mentioning like as if it’s the most natural thing in the world (I mean, everybody has dome quirk or other) people just take it in as any other piece of information. I truly believe that words like bipolar (and in fact most other words) only hold as much power as we give it. I give them this piece of information about myself just like I would anything else, and just like with everything else it’s up to the receiver to receive it in the way that is most natural for them, meaning that we, the giver of that information also can’t have any preconception regarding how that person is supposed to react to the information given.
This has been vital for me, because all that energy it would have taken for me to hold up a facade, is energy that I need for myself. I have never quite heard or read a better description of this situation than the story told by Christine Miserandino’s “Spoon Theory”. Christine may be speaking about a chronic illness of the physical kind, but as being bipolar is a chronic illness of its own kind, it and hit the mark.
Actually, honesty has been so important to me, that I knew when taking the job I have today, that I would at some point have to tell my boss about my situation as well. However, because the position I got was just a temp, and I wanted to show my best sides so that I could get a long term agreement once it was done, I told myself that I would wait with telling him until the d-day came as by then he would know what I went for and hopefully not get scared off by it.
What I thought would be 7-month job however, got extended with another 8, and my emotional roller coaster just kept getting worse. In my attempt to keep trying to give off the perception that I was just like any other happy-go-lucky girl, I in turn of course got even worse. I’d never experienced such tangible proof of how important honesty was for my own mental health, because frankly, it became a downward spiral from hell. At this point my even my manias weren’t enjoyable. I just felt like a crazy person. My weekdays took so much of my energy that I wound myself into a state of mania, and come weekend I would crash, with the consequence that I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than “curate” myself. I didn’t have the energy to make an effort to meet or make friends, or anything else that meant having to deal with other human beings.
Finally I broke down, told my boss while in tears that I was bipolar, what it meant, and how it was effecting my job (remember what I said about normalising it? Breaking down in tears just wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, obviously). It was the scariest thing I’ve done in a while, I think I scared the hell out of my poor boss and it took about 3 months to get back to the care-free relationship that we had before my breakdown. Now that he knows about it though, we can joke about it a little, making it much easier to continue doing my best, without having to also think about keeping up the facade with him, which in turn gives me the possibility to slowly open up to my colleagues without me worrying about my boss finding out.
In short, it’s not a need to tell everyone, it’s a need to be able to be honest about it, instead of hiding in the closet. Now a days I joke about being an out of the closet bipolar.