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4 Ways My Bipolar Disorder Is Like Being in a Bad Relationship

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My mom always told me to guard my heart when in a relationship. She told me my heart is fragile, and if broken, would take quite some time to repair. So I grew up knowing how to take care of my heart in friendships, familial and romantic relationships, and professional relationships. What I didn’t grow up knowing was how to protect myself from something like bipolar disorder and the trouble it causes. I’ve been in my share of bad relationships, with family, friends or partners, but no relationship can compare to the four ways my bipolar disorder is like being in a bad relationship.

1. It’s controlling.

My strict parents and nosy partners always seemed to ask the same three questions. Who are you hanging out with? Where are you going? Who are you talking to? Not only would they constantly inquire, they would control the answers. Bipolar disorder may not ask the same questions, but the outcome is the same. During a manic episode, it controls what I feel, how I act and what I say, with no regard for my thoughts or feelings.

2. It enables harmful habits.

When the manic side of my bipolar disorder takes over, I am not myself, much like when I would change myself to suit my partner who actually was a negative influence on me. When I’m manic, I become impulsive and promiscuous, engaging in risky, foolish behavior without any concern for the consequences. Bipolar disorder doesn’t care about the consequences either. I make poor decisions when I’m manic because bipolar doesn’t care about what happens to me, it only cares about the self-destructive “fun” we could have.

3. It’s not supportive.

Much like an unsupportive family or friend, bipolar depression discourages me from doing what I want to do. It tells me I can’t do anything, and that includes trying to achieve my long-term goals. Bipolar depression tries to talk me out of being successful, even if it is to just succeed at getting out of bed.

4. It ruthlessly insults me.

I’ve already covered how bipolar disorder doesn’t care about my feelings. Like my sister and I when we were younger, bipolar disorder calls me names, tears me down and insults me. It tells me I’m fat, ugly and worthless. It knows exactly what to say and exactly how to say it to make it hurt the most, because it knows me so well. It strips away my confidence and makes me believe these insults are true, and I believe it, because it is a part of me.

I would never let a partner, family member or friend treat me the way my bipolar disorder does. I would stand up and assert myself, say no and leave the situation. Unfortunately, I just can’t up and leave my bipolar disorder. Instead, I can manage it, and not allow the mania or depression to control me. It’s like I’m breaking it off with a verbally abusive boyfriend, but we still work together. My bipolar disorder and I have to coexist, have to talk every once in awhile and have to be civil to one another. But I don’t have to let bipolar disorder control me, tear me down or make me doubt myself. With medication, therapy and coping skills, I can “break up” with bipolar disorder and take back control of my mind.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines

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Court Rules Chipotle Did Not Discriminate by Firing Employee With Bipolar Disorder

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A court in Florida has sided with Chipotle after it fired a woman for side effects caused by a prescription medication she was taking for panic attacks and bipolar disorder.

Lisa Caporicci was terminated from the restaurant where she worked in Tampa on June 6, 2013, for showing up to work in a state her former manager described as “inebriated.” Two months before she was fired, Caporicci told her manager she had a history of bipolar disorder, depression and panic attacks, and that she was taking prescription medications to manage her bipolar disorder.

On the day she was fired and two months after her initial conversation with her manager, Caporicci had a bad reaction to Saphris — a new medication she was prescribed for her bipolar disorder. About 30 minutes into her shift, Caporicci felt disoriented and dizzy. According to court documents, she “was very slow, messed up orders and was incoherent.” Caporicci explained what was going on to her manager, who told her it was fine and to go home and rest.

When she got home, she received a call from her manager telling her “I’m really sorry, but you just looked like you were on some [expletive], so you’re fired and you are not rehirable at Chipotle.”

Before her termination, Caporicci had never received any warnings, documentation or write-ups regarding any absences, court records state. The month before she was fired, she was being “watched carefully for a promotion,” the stress of which added to her panic attacks.

Caporicci sued Chipotle for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as violating the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows employees of covered companies to take a leave of absence of specific medical and family-related reasons. Any leave of absence is unpaid; however, the job is protected and employees continue to receive health insurance.

About a week before she was fired, Caporicci submitted paperwork to take a short medical leave of absence for that week, May 30 to June 3. According to Caporicci’s testimony, her manager laughed at the request and threw out the forms her nurse practitioner faxed over. Despite this, Caporicci was still granted the days off.

At the time she was fired, Caporicci had only been at Chipotle for 11 months. To be eligible for protection under the FMLA, she needed to be working there for a full year. Because she was fired before her anniversary, the court ruled her case was not protected by the FMLA.

As for the discrimination charge, the court found Chipotle was not discriminating, based on language in the company’s “Drug and Alcohol Policy.” The policy states:

No employee shall report to work or be at work under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances, or with any detectable amount of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances in his or her system.

Employees who must use medically prescribed or over-the-counter drugs that may adversely affect their ability to perform work in a safe manner must notify their Manager prior to starting work. The Manager will decide if the employee can remain at work and/or if work restrictions are necessary. The employee may be required to take a medical leave of absence or disability leave for the duration of the medication.

Because Caporicci did not disclose that the medications she was taking could negatively affect her ability to perform her job, the court found she violated company policy and that Chipotle was not discriminating against her disability.

Caporicci’s attorney declined to comment. A Chipotle spokesperson reaffirmed that “the judge in this case granted Chipotle’s motion for summary judgment and the case has been dismissed.”

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When Someone Uses My Illness as an Adjective or Insult

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The first time I heard someone describe another person as “bipolar,” it was in regards to my 3-month-old colicky baby girl. It’s true that one moment she would be happy and smiley and the next she would be crying and screaming in pain. A neighbor noticed this about her and one day posed the question, “Is she bipolar or something?”

Obviously I said no and explained her colic, but the fact they asked me that question really bothered me and continued to bother me, especially after someone else made a similar comment. I was talking with a good friend about his pregnant wife, and he described her hormonal mood changes as “being bipolar.” After hearing my illness be used as an adjective for the second time, I decided in the future, I would put my foot down.

Bipolar disorder can be a devastating mood disorder. It can cause mood swings, sleep issues and relationship problems and is in no way black and white. Bipolar disorder is not just feeling happy or sad, mad or pleased. It is a series and swamp of various moods and emotions that can change quickly and without any warning to the person suffering from it. People throw the word bipolar around as if it is black and white and as if regular mood changes somehow compare to the unbalanced moods of bipolar disorder. Your wife being mad at you or a baby crying are definitely not anywhere near the magnitude of what kinds of emotions a person with bipolar disorder can experiences.

It offends me when someone uses my illness as an insult toward someone else or as an adjective to describe someone’s actions. Bipolar disorder affects me and those around me every day. It should not be taken lightly, and the word “bipolar” should not be used in any other way than medically.

Unfortunately, a great number of people don’t know the true definition or affect of bipolar disorder; they only know the stigma attached to it. People hear “bipolar” and they immediately think “crazy” (that’s another word improperly used as an insult and description of emotions). People who have bipolar disorder are not crazy, and people acting unreasonably are not bipolar. People with bipolar disorder can be described as so many things: impossibly strong, possibly hurt and definitely fearless. The same sort of descriptions should be used when someone without a mental illness is having a hard time. Maybe they are unreasonably angry, surprisingly happy or definitely hurting. No one should deem a person bipolar unless that person has the illness.

I am bipolar. I am not crazy, and I am not OK with my illness being used as an insult or adjective. I want society to know the hard truth about bipolar disorder and understand how hurtful it can be to hear that truth being skewed. I want the world to realize being bipolar is not a bad or shameful thing and that it shouldn’t be used to describe bad or shameful actions. Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects me and many people like me. We are real people with a real illness. And we are not an adjective.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one phrase you wish people would stop saying about your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness? Why? What should they say instead? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To My Shadow Named Bipolar Disorder

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It’s been roughly eight years since I started this roller coaster ride with you. Eight years of struggling to tame the violent hurricane you’ve hurled into my mind. I wasn’t aware you were already building a fortress in my head the first time you came around. I thought you were nothing but a phase all adolescents go through. So I ignored you, thinking you’d eventually go away if I pretended you didn’t exist.

But just like a shadow, you followed me everywhere I went. I pretended not to feel you looming over me with every step I took. I tried to be oblivious to the self-destructive thoughts you constantly whispered into my ear. It took every fiber of my being to keep myself intact every time you threw my moods into different directions.

For a long time, I survived this constant battle with you. Little by little, I was successful in lulling you — the monster living inside of me — to sleep. It wasn’t easy; I had to be really careful so I wouldn’t wake or upset you. Maintaining that kind of composure was stressful; but for a while, everything seemed to be under control.

That was until a traumatic, life-changing experience triggered you back to life. Your comeback was utterly devastating. You wreaked havoc in every area of my life. No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to keep you out of bounds. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t stop my mind from racing. I felt alone, worthless and unloved. Some days I just felt nothing — like I was out of my own body. There was a heavy, crushing feeling in my chest that wouldn’t go away. It was like being stuck in the middle of a neck-deep pool. It got to the point where I self-harmed and thought ending my life would be the only way to make you stop.

That’s when I realized I had it with you. I couldn’t let you take over my life anymore. I told my parents everything I was feeling and began to seek help from a psychiatrist, hoping I’d finally get to know what you really were.

You were given many names: clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder. I was prescribed with a lot of disorienting and nauseating pills that promised to keep you from attacking me. Everything was going great for a while, but then a different side of you manifested inside of me. I started having these intense phases of zoning out. There were a lot of times I suddenly didn’t know where I was or how I got there. I was too lost in my own thoughts, I didn’t know what was going on in the real world. I couldn’t stop myself from having so many ideas and so many rapid thoughts that everything else seemed to be in slow motion. I couldn’t control my impulsive buying habits. I would often go broke over things I didn’t even need. I didn’t and couldn’t go to sleep because I wanted to do so many things all at the same time and I had to do it immediately. I cleaned every corner my room obsessively until it was spotless. I would over-organize everything and freak out over even a speck of dirt lying around my room. Sometimes I wouldn’t even notice I’d been cleaning all day. The anxiety was intense. I was sure something terrible would happen in every situation I was in, even if it sounded ridiculous and unrealistic. I found it hard to trust anybody, and was scared of being in a room full of people. I felt like everybody hated me, and was plotting some sort of evil scheme to get rid of me.

The worst part was the voices. On good days, you’d only resound all my insecurities through soft, bothersome whispers. On bad days, you’d scream right into my ear. It was torture. It was like being in an airplane with a baby shrieking loudly in the seat behind you and there was nothing you could do to make it stop.

So there I was, back to square one. I went to a different psychiatrist this time, mostly because I was embarrassed to go back to my former shrink. That’s when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. She explained people like me experience longer periods of severe depression and shorter periods of mild manic episodes (hypomania). This is why most people who have this illness are often misdiagnosed with clinical depression. Apparently, the spell I was in right after my depressive phase was called a hypomanic episode. It was a lot to take in, but everything made perfect sense. Although the diagnosis left me scared shitless, I also felt relieved to get to the bottom of this.

Bipolar 2 disorder. Finally. Your real name. After a long, frustrating journey, I now know who you really are and how I’m going to manage you. It’s definitely not going to be an easy ride — and it would probably take a lot of time to get the right mix of medications to tame you — but I won’t let you destroy me again.

Thank you for showing me how much my family loves me, and how amazing my parents are. Without their support and understanding, I wouldn’t have been able to survive all the shit you put me through. I’ve lost a lot of people along the way, but you showed me who my real friends are. Up to this day, I still don’t know what I did to deserve them. So thank you. Thank you for showing me I’m not alone in this fight and that it is definitely not impossible to find solid friends.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help and reach out to people who are like me. You gave me the chance to show compassion, kindness and understanding to people who are also struggling with an invisible war inside their heads. As long as I am alive and breathing, I will do my best to diminish stigma and raise awareness about mental illnesses.

Finally, thank you for making me realize how strong and resilient I am. Thank you for showing me it’s possible to survive even with a mental illness. I know how hard you tried to knock me down, but here I am, still standing. Yes, I’m still far from being well — but I’m also far from the weak and vulnerable Layana you once knew.

…So bring it on.

Your worst nightmare,

Layana

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Please Don't Call People With Bipolar Disorder 'Overdramatic'

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As a person with bipolar disorder, I’ve been called “overdramatic.” I understand there are moments when this feels like an appropriate adjective to use. But for someone with a mental illness, there are a few good reasons labeling me as “overdramatic” is a bad idea.

1. Given my sensitive nature, it hurts.

My bipolar disorder makes me emotionally in tune. My moods do bounce around, causing a whirlwind of feelings. I know it’s not always justified when I have an emotional reaction to being told this or that. But when I’m categorized as overdramatic, it sinks in.

2. I can’t always control my reactions. I don’t want to “act overdramatic.” I might not be able to help it.

Sometimes I get unusually irritable. It’s more unusual to you, I imagine, than to me. I usually don’t know when it’s going to happen. So next time you see me being moody or irritable, consider how typical it might feel to me.

3. I have my moments, but they’re in my nature.

I don’t want to be penalized for every outburst I have in my life by someone who doesn’t experience how uncontrollable they can feel. Unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know the intensity and how exhausting these depressive and manic episodes are. I already feel bad enough when I’m struggling; being called “overdramatic” makes it worse.

4. My physical well-being can change as often as my moods do.

That’s how it’s always been, and I suspect that’s how it always will be for me. So when I’m depressed, stuck in bed and flat out don’t have enthusiasm for life, I am not trying to be overdramatic about it. It is real. It does happen, and I usually can’t just “fix it.” On the other side of the spectrum, when I have racing thoughts, a ton of energy, enthusiasm and grandiose ideas, I probably can’t contain that all to myself.

5. I’m fighting it.

I take medications to maintain a tornado in my mind that takes a hold of everything in there and can cause chaos with everything around me. I go to therapy, and that’s a proven necessity for me. I tried stopping my medications (as have many at some point or another), and that did not last too long. And because of that, I have no choice to experience the many side effects of them. Believe me, if you think I am overdramatic now in my current state of being, you will witness a whole other level of “overdramatic” when I don’t treat my mental illness.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one phrase you wish people would stop saying about your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When My 4-Year-Old Started Imitating My Manic Episodes

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A few weeks ago our 4-year-old daughter was walking around itching the side of her head. My first thought was lice! But shortly after, she walked past with her hands in fists, her head resting on them.

It clicked — she was mimicking my actions from a manic episode I had a couple days earlier. I realized I was having manic episodes at some point every day, all with her watching and listening from the other room. 

Every day as my episodes keep getting worse, it was likely she was going to have to spend some time away from me. So, I decided to tell her this:

“Mommy’s brain is sick, and it is not as happy and beautiful as yours. Mommy might need to stay at the hospital, so if I’m not here after school please don’t be afraid, I will be back.”

I proceeded to tell her I would talk to Daddy, and see if she could stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s while I was away, as that is her “happy place.” We started joking around and tickling each other, both laughing.

Suddenly she stopped, looked right into my eyes, her eyes filled with sadness, and gave me a hug topped with a kiss on my forehead.

She had given me her blessing and showed me she understood. 

The Mighty is asking the following: If you’re a parent with a mental illness, tell us about a time you tried (either successfully or unsuccessfully) to explain to your children about your mental illness/mental health issues. How did they react? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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