For as long as I can remember, I would have these periods of complete sadness. I would hear my friends and family say, “Everyone has a bad day,” “Why don’t you go outside. You will feel so much better,” or my personal favorite, “Stop sulking and get over it!” The “get over it” wasn’t yelled at me, but it might as well have been.
“Elizabeth is being overdramatic. Get over it!”
“Why are you still in bed? You’re having a bad day? Get over it!”
I could go on and on with the different examples of how people perceived my “bad days.” I know some meant well, or others may have thought I was seeking attention, but that’s just been one of the painful realities I’ve dealt with since being diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
I always put on the “Pollyanna Sunshine” face when the depression would consume me, because I didn’t want to hear “Get over it.” However, something changed my thinking. Last year, April 2015, I admitted myself after what would have been my third attempt. While there, I was surrounded by other people who were dealing with issues similar to mine.
During my first night in the behavioral health unit, I cried for two hours in my dark room. One of the nurses came in to check on me. When I couldn’t really put into words how I was feeling, she didn’t say “Get over it” — she sat there and listened to everything that poured out of me without any judgment. My time there showed me I didn’t have to put on the “Pollyanna Sunshine” routine — I could actually feel, ask for help and stand up for myself.
This came in handy after starting a new job with co-workers from one of my previous positions. They knew I had bipolar disorder, but they didn’t understand the manic and depressive episodes I would go through.
One particular week after a month of dealing with a depressive episode, I sent an email to one of my co-workers, who was the manager of the help desk I worked at. I told her I’d had a bad weekend and wouldn’t be able to make it in. Now, you might think that, knowing about my disorder, they would be sympathetic towards me. That didn’t happen initially.
I received the dreaded response pretty much saying, “Everyone has a bad day, and you shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to come to work.” To me, it was pretty much the long way of saying “Get over it.” At that point, I did something I had never done. I pushed back regarding their response.
I went into detail about my reality. I explained that when I am having a “bad day,” it could be something I have been dealing with for weeks, and then I finally couldn’t function. That the thought of even having to get out of bed to brush my teeth, take a shower, or fix myself something to eat causes me physical and emotional pain. That it feels like I’ve been “hit by a bus” and am in a constant state of mind fog. That it was something I couldn’t “just get over.”
I was ready for the “being overdramatic” response, but instead I got a response that pretty much brought me to tears. They stated they never knew that’s what I went through when having “a bad day.” That they always felt people who said they were “depressed” were being “dramatic.” They actually apologized and told me to take the time I needed to get better.
Now, I know it was only one person who I helped understand what I and others with a mental illness may go through. However, I had changed one person’s perspective, and I know they would now think before telling someone to “Get over it.”
Image via Thinkstock.
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