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The Angel and Devil of My Bipolar Disorder

Let me give you a metaphor to ponder. I like to refer to my¬†bipolar disorder as having an angel on one shoulder and having a demon on the other — just like you see in movies where someone is trying to make a big¬†decision. Except, I’m not usually making decisions, I’m just having a battle¬†inside my head. A battle that leaves me more exhausted than when I do a¬†rigorous full body workout, which I try to do at least a couple of times a week.

Now, the angel is whispering nice things to me like, ‚ÄúEverything¬†is OK. The demon is lying to you. Don’t listen to it. You’ll get passed this,¬†etc.‚ÄĚ

On the other shoulder, that awful demon is screaming mean things. It can be any variation of things, but always there is name calling.

I’d like to give you a¬†scenario to help you understand a little better. Here’s a little back story for¬†you. I’m a medical assistant and I work with two other nurses, taking turns with rooming and assisting with patients in a rotational order. Most days are OK¬†because there are three of us, but today we only had two. Today in particular¬†the other nurse saw probably five patients more than me. You may not understand¬†what this means, and that’s OK. You’ll see where I’m getting at a little later¬†on.

I imagine if my angel and demon were having a conversation or argument with each other and I could actually hear their voices, it would sound like this.

I look at the schedule and notice the other nurse has¬†seen more patients than me. A war then forms inside my¬†head. The demon starts it off with, ‚ÄúYou’re so incompetent, you’re not even quick enough to keep up with the other nurse.‚ÄĚ My angel tries to chime in and¬†replies with, ‚ÄúThat’s not true, you can’t help how the flow of patients is laid¬†out, you’re doing a lot in the room with the doctor, the other nurse is in and¬†out with hers.‚ÄĚ The demon rebuttals with, ‚ÄúOh she notices and she’s annoyed that¬†you aren’t seeing as many as her. She’s not gonna like you after this, tisk¬†tisk.‚ÄĚ

Meanwhile I’m struggling to tell myself not to let another war begin, that I’m¬†better than this and that’s what my medication is for. The angel sides with me¬†and says, ‚ÄúYou’re damn right you’re better than this, she doesn’t even notice¬†that you’ve seen less than her. She knows how the flow goes and she doesn’t¬†seem upset at all.‚ÄĚ With that boost of positivity comes the evil voice slamming that comment away with a swift, ‚ÄúEven¬†if she isn’t upset about it, the managers will notice when they look at the¬†schedule. They’ll think you’re not good enough and they’ll have a talk with¬†you!‚ÄĚ

By this point, I’m expressively flustered, and no one else¬†knows the reason why. Everything appears fine to them, but they have no idea what’s happening in my head, and¬†in my brain.

A few weeks ago I received my annual¬†review and was given a dollar raise for being ‚ÄúA+ awesome‚ÄĚ (their words, not¬†mine) but was also told the only thing I needed to work on was trying to¬†control expressing my emotions of being frustrated or flustered. Even though¬†this is extremely difficult for me, I agree to try. I really do try,¬†but it’s not easy for me all the time.

Now the angel reassures me, ‚ÄúIf you were incompetent,¬†they wouldn’t have given you a dollar raise. They even mentioned in the review¬†that they don’t usually do that. What does that tell you? You’re doing great!‚ÄĚ This¬†time I listen to her‚Ķ this time I refuse to lose! I decide right then to tell¬†myself I can’t let this ruin my day, everything is OK, and no one cares if¬†I didn’t see as many as she did. Tomorrow is another day, be strong and

We won this time, which is a victory because the demon wins¬†most of the time. But here’s the thing‚Ķ I’m working on me. I am learning¬†techniques and strategies to be stable, and with that and medications, I am¬†getting better and better every day. I hope this gives other people who¬†struggle¬†with this battle, courage to stand up for yourself or against yourself, and find¬†ways to work through it all. It’s so hard — so, so hard — and this is only one of the many struggles. But I know¬†you can do it too! I¬†believe in you.