“Just try and be happy.”
“It’s all in your head. Just focus on the positives.”
“What do you have to be sad about?”
If you live with any mental illness, then you have likely heard these statements before. Although the person saying them is just trying to be positive, you know as well as I do they do not always bring positive emotions.
I feel guilty every day I struggle with bipolar disorder. There are some days when I am on top of the world. I feel like I can do any and everything. On those days, I like to get out. I enjoy being around people and socializing. I want the company of those I love.
Unfortunately, those days have always been limited for me. My “highs” come in spurts, while my “lows” tend to linger longer than I would like. I push through them long enough to be at work and talk to the people I have to talk to. However, once I punch out at 5 p.m., I shut off.
Most days I go home and lay in bed watching whatever show I’m binge watching at the time. Some days, I sit on my porch thinking of all the projects I’ve left unfinished, all the plans I’ve canceled because I couldn’t leave my bed, all of the things I’ve done or said that have hurt the people I’m closest to. Then, I think of all of the times I didn’t see my family and friends because avoiding them is easier than having to answer a millions questions.
“Why are your eyes so dark?”
“You look so thin. Have you been eating?”
“When is the last time you slept?”
“Have you been feeling well?”
Even though the questions stem from genuine concern, no answer I give will ever be the right one. Then comes the guilt. I can lie and tell them I have been fine, I have a headache or I just tossed and turned all night. When in actuality, I haven’t eaten or slept in days. I have been crying for hours over absolutely nothing. I feel like my world is falling apart around me.
But which is worse? Protecting them from the truth or making them worry about me to the point that they lose sleep and my mental health consumes their every thought? Either way is a losing battle.
I did not choose my mental disorder. It chose me. It crept in and overtook my every thought. It has left me feeling lonely and in the dark. It has beaten me down while whispering in my ear how unworthy I am. How there is no light at the end of this dark and unmerciful tunnel.
I have never felt alone though. Even at my loneliest, I know there is an army of support standing beside and behind me ready to catch me and hold my hand as I walk this path. No matter how comforting that may be, I still feel so guilty. I feel guilty that these people I love and who love me, have to see me at my lowest.
I feel guilty for the sleepless nights and constant fear I may one day completely lose myself. I feel guilty for the burden I feel I am. I feel guilty that the ones I love have never considered me that burden. I feel guilty I do not spend more time with my family. I feel guilty looking them in the eyes and lying to them. I feel guilty telling them I am falling apart, spiraling out of control. I feel guilty I have this wonderful life, so full of love, and I am still so sad sometimes, most of the time. I feel guilty I have to force a smile that should come so naturally.
When I am at my “high,” I feel great. This also makes me feel guilty because I have made so many worry about me when I was enduring my “low.” My mind is at a constant battle with itself. Some days are better than others, but that voice is always there. It may be quieter on good days, but I can always hear it, whispering in my ear, reminding me that it is never far away.
So even when I’m happy, even when I am as high as the clouds, that guilty voice is always close. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I can even see her, looking back at me with those dark eyes, waiting for me in the deepest and darkest corners of my mind.
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