The Struggle to Keep the Side Effects of My Bipolar Medication Hidden
Boring. Forgetful. Odd.
These are some of the labels I encounter daily due to the side effects of my medication for bipolar disorder. I don’t push back against those labels because I do my best to hide my bipolar disorder and the side effects of medications throughout the day. I hide it most from strangers and coworkers, and I do still try hard to hide it from my family and closest friends. It’s a tricky business.
Waking up in the morning is an ordeal when you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, and the side effects of medications to treat it are difficult to hide. The anti-psychotics I take make me extremely groggy. I have a tendency to stumble through multiple alarms. I also have to go to bed early so I get enough rest to function the next day.
This starts people asking me, “Hey, I texted you last night at 9, but you didn’t respond.” When I tell them I go to bed around then, they look shocked. “You really go to bed that early? Wow, you’re an old person!” they joke. I give a crooked a smile and laugh along with them. It’s easier to take the teasing than explain that if I don’t go to bed early, the anti-psychotics will make me too tired to get up the next morning. People see me as a boring, anti-social person when in reality I am exactly the opposite.
Another side effect of my bipolar medications is grogginess that lasts into the workday, and it can affect my memory. I often forget conversations I’ve had or commitments I’ve made. I’ve learned to keep a cheap planner on me to help, but coworkers and bosses usually tease or sometimes criticize me for my perceived flightiness. I get strange looks from bosses and coworkers. I even had a boss tell me I was such a hard, focused worker that she found my forgetful spells quite odd. I shrugged and awkwardly laughed. I can tell by the way they treat me that they think I’m a bit odd.
I don’t attend work social functions or many social functions at all because I have learned most drinks contain alcohol, which I avoid due to the medications I take. I found that I get teased at bars or restaurants when I am the only one abstaining from drinking. I get asked if I’m super religious or teased about being a goody two-shoes. I love a great pina colada as much as the next girl, but alcohol is strictly a no-go with the medications I’m on.
I also have to watch my weight as my antipsychotics help pack on pounds. Eating out is something I try to avoid. If I’m in a group outing with people who don’t know about my bipolar disorder, I quickly am singled out as being the least fun of the group. “A salad and water?” they ask, shocked as they dig into gooey nachos. “You can’t not try this chocolate cake,” they tease. Continuously refusing quickly makes me an outcast, and the invitations to social functions cease.
It’s sometimes easier to be quickly judged and classified as quirky or dull than it is to try to explain what’s behind all of it. After all, I’m not going to change because of the labels. If I stopped taking my bipolar medications, well, that’s a whole different story that comes along with its own labels that are much, much harder to hide in a normal day. For now, I do the best I can to hide the side effects of the medications I must take for bipolar disorder.
We all do our best to maintain what we think is a meaningful and productive life. Everyone struggles with one thing or another day-to-day. My struggle just happens to be doing my best to hide the side effects of my bipolar medications during a normal day.
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