two people touching hands sitting close to one another

What Happened When I Opened Up to My Sister About My Bipolar Disorder

8
8
0

I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a sharer. I have never been. I love to hear all about other people and their experiences but when it comes to talking about myself, especially my emotions, I keep the sharing to a minimum. I use humor as a defense mechanism to avoid any conversation I deem as being too deep. Hell, I still feel weird talking about my personal experiences on the internet. You can imagine, then, how conflicted I am when it comes to talking about my mental illness. I was just recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I’m really struggling with how much I feel like I should reveal about it. My biggest problem is, I care too much about the image I portray to others. This, in turn, leads me to pretend to be OK when, in reality, I’m anything but. I worry my problems will be an inconvenience to those around me or they’ll think less of me for not being stronger.

After my most recent hospitalization for a depressive episode, I’ve decided to be more open and honest about the state of my mental health. I’ve been working through talk therapy but I still find myself holding back sometimes when people, especially my family, ask me how I’m doing.

One night, a few weeks after I got home from the hospital, my younger sister and I were standing in the kitchen. I can’t even remember what exactly we were talking about but she turned to me and said, “I’m just going to be blunt with you. What’s going on?”

I got so uncomfortable. I could feel myself starting to say things like, “Nothing, I’m OK” or “I’m just tired, that’s all.” You know, all the usual excuses we give when we want to avoid the bigger issue. I knew my family had been tip-toeing around me recently, so I’d been retreating back to that state of denial in order to make their lives easier. My sister didn’t wait for a response from me. She went on and said, “I want you to know I’m here for you, but you have to talk to me.” And so I did. I immediately broke down and told her everything, and I mean everything, I’d been going through the past few months. It was like word vomit. I won’t go in depth about it but all the traumatic details had us both in tears. The best part about the whole conversation was that after I finished, she didn’t judge me for any of it. She hugged me and told me she was so sorry I had to go through it alone and she wished she would’ve known so she could’ve been there to support me.

After that conversation, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Someone finally knew why I am the way I am and she didn’t run away screaming. She’s actually interested in learning more about it. I gave her a book on bipolar disorder and even invited her to one of the support groups I attend that allows family and friends. I’ve always been really close with my baby sister, but I feel like this has brought us even closer. So often I feel like I’m alone in all of this, but after talking with my sister I realize that isn’t the case. There are people in my life who love and support me, and now I know I don’t have to constantly hide my feelings to avoid being vulnerable.

If you’re thinking of opening up to someone close to you about your mental illness, I urge you to do it. Chances are they will want to do everything they can to help you and it might even make your relationship stronger.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd

8
8
0

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When Mental Illness Makes You Spend the Day on Autopilot

72
72
0

I vaguely hear a commercial on the television. Ay son is playing in his room, where I hear the occasional roar of a pretend dinosaur, and there is a quiet jingle of a collar as my dogs run around.

Inside my mind, there is a constant stream of disconcerting thoughts I have no control over. I feel gut-wrenching guilt, bottomless hopelessness and an abyss of emotions I have no actual words for.

It is like I am underwater; my senses are dulled and I am not entirely sure how it is 8 p.m. when it was only 3:30 p.m. a few minutes ago. Didn’t I just pick my son up? No, I made him dinner. Did he have a vegetable? Yes, I cut carrots. I need to put him in pajamas. He’s already in pajamas. The day has whizzed by and I realize I am on autopilot, again.

Deep within the confines of our illnesses, we can occasionally feel like we are imprisoned in our own mind. Despite the chaotic storm inside ourselves, the world continues to rotate and life goes on. My bipolar disorder and anxiety carry me adrift and I feel lost. However, there is an anchor in the back of myself. It is the part that grounds me in reality and allows me to carry on throughout my day because my life must, indeed, go on.

Sometimes, my days are blurry and vague. The sunshine seems a little harsh. That’s OK. Eventually, I come back to myself and I am in charge again.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash image via Jamie Street

72
72
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why Living With Bipolar Disorder Is Exhausting

753
753
6

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Bipolar disorder is exhausting. Asking for help is worse. I hear a little voice in the back of my head as I tell a loved one I don’t feel well: “Here we go again…”

I don’t even know what type of help I’m asking for. Fortunately and unfortunately, my sense of humor typically gets in the way, laughter prevails and I move on with a false sense of self, leaving my own emotional wake on those I love.

Right now, noises are louder, smells are stronger, lights are brighter. Everything is an irritant.

I’m looking through my list of family and friends who I can reach out to, who won’t be tired of hearing from me. I feel as though everyone is tired of my shit. I start thinking about my kids and I can’t control my tears.

I begin to withdraw from my support system for fear of their rejection of me. I don’t know how serious my thoughts are. I don’t want them to worry about me and I want them to reassure me everything is going to be all right. I always receive such amazing feedback and it makes me feel weak that I have to fish for compliments. Why am I so insecure right now?

It is day four of this feeling.  I am sitting at my usual breakfast spot, staring out the window, waiting for inspiration.

Depression can feel emasculating when you are going through the experience. It doesn’t feel like being humble. It feels like total collapse and an inability to handle the basics of life.  I am feeling ungrateful for my life and everything I have accomplished. I am taking for granted everything I have as if everyone has it and I’m really nothing special. I am constantly choking back tears that begin welling up in my chest before they make it to the surface.

As I look around at the world, I feel as though I wouldn’t be missed. I feel as though I am bringing greater harm to my loved ones by dragging out my illness and the constant pain I am putting them through by not being able to fully participate in life.

I am trying to negotiate with myself that what I am experiencing is only thoughts and emotions which aren’t me. The internal fight going on between my emotional and intellectual halves of my brain is epic.

Depressive episodes are comparable to the world swallowing you whole and closing your ability to see around you. It’s as if my support system is growing smaller — the people who care about me and love me are growing smaller and I’m just sitting here alone, trying to figure out when this mood is going to pass.

It’s really hard to explain but it’s as if nothing matters.

This is the closest I have felt for wanting to get on an off-ramp and see what happens. My kids, my wife and my family are saving me right now.

I don’t know how to ask for help or even what kind of help I would be asking for. Do I really want people to just come over and sit in a room with me and stare at me? And then I would feel like a fraud, making people laugh and telling stories and jokes.

When am I going to laugh again? When is everything going to be OK? When will this desire to die go away? When will I see my future the way everyone else does?

I find myself falling into fake conversations and my humor begins to take over the much-needed care my soul needs. It blankets me and tries to protect me from the “insanity” of my thoughts.

Intellectually I know this will pass. Emotionally I don’t.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Jim Jackson

753
753
6
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What I Will Tell My Future Children If They Inherit My Mental Illness

160
160
2

I do not have children, and I am not pregnant. My husband and I are not planning on having kids in the immediate future. And yet from time to time, my mind wanders towards the tiny humans we will bring into this world and how my mental illness may very well get passed on to them.

I struggle with bipolar II and anxiety — two illnesses that stand a chance of being passed on along with the rest of my genetics. It’s not a 100 percent certainty — I know this — and it will happen no matter how much or how little I worry. I know that too. So all I can do is prepare for the eventual possibility our child may be like his mother in a way no parent would choose.

On the bright side, I’ll be able to guide them a little. While no two cases are the same, I have a blueprint, however messy, I can pass on to them. I will do everything in my power to smooth the path. And if that is a path we must go down, here is what I will tell my child:

1. There is nothing wrong with you. This is an illness. This is not you.

2. You will get through this. It won’t always be easy. You will have good days and bad days, but your father and I will be there through both.

3. You will watch me have bad days. Don’t be afraid. Just because we have the same illness does not mean we will experience the same way. Please don’t think that you will have to fight every battle that I do.

4. Self-care isn’t selfish. Learn what puts you at ease. Think about what makes the stress and the sadness and the uncontrollable energy go away. Those are the things we will make a point to do, and if you need to stay home a day, say so.

5. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication. Don’t get me wrong, we will do everything to make sure you are on the right medication. But lots of people take medication for lots of things. This is just yours.

6. You are strong. You are a gladiator. I know you won’t feel like it some days, but you are.

7. It’s not as rare as you think. When I finally started telling people about my bipolar disorder, people opened up to me about the bipolar people in their lives and their own struggles.  I also found out how many people struggle with anxiety, so when I got my diagnosis I didn’t feel quite so alone.

8. Not everyone will get it. Give them credit for trying. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.

9. Celebrate the little victories. You’d be amazed how quickly they add up.

10. I will always love you — good days, bad days, difficult days and celebratory ones. Your father and I love you.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via John Flobrant

160
160
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What the Weather Would Look Like if It Was Actually 'Bipolar'

35
35
2

The weather is particularly tricky to diagnose, as any meteorologist will tell you. Yet so many of us are quick to confidently call it “bipolar.”

I know society is generally becoming more educated about my disorder, and I’m not even offended by that saying anymore. However, it does us all a disservice by spreading the stigmatizing myth that bipolar disorder is just about ups and downs.

Let me set the record straight and show you what a bipolar weather pattern would really look like. Because if the weather really were bipolar, none of us would recognize it.

Some days will simply be black. The sun won’t shine, the wind won’t blow and everything will stand still.

But don’t panic just yet. The weather hasn’t left us — it just can’t get out of bed today.

The sun will go to bed at 5 p.m. and wake up at 10 a.m. It will never be able to get enough sleep, even then.

Cloudy skies will linger for three, six or nine months, depending upon how well the new medication works out. It’s hard to be shining brightly when you’re depressed, and a pill that colors everything gray is useful, but only goes so far. 

Rain will fall even if there are no clouds. The weather is crying without any rational explanation why. And sometimes the rain will taste incredibly sweet. It’s been depressed, and has barely eaten anything today.

If the weather becomes manic, the sun will stay up all through the night. It’s had way too many good ideas to be able to fall asleep. The next morning the sun will be in a different position in the sky. It spent all of its money impulsively, and even though it’s 4.6 billion years old, it has to move back in with mom and dad.

Lightning strikes will flare unexpectedly. The day could be perfectly pleasant, but some small thing sent a quick surge of anger through it.

The pressure in the air might get tight enough to end organic life on the planet. There’s just too much on the atmosphere’s plate, and keeping it all together is stifling.

When guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness drift in, expect a continually cold front socially. Should delusions of grandeur roll in or inhibitions dissipate, expect it to get really weird. A hot rain or dry freeze could come out of nowhere.

Prepare for occasional gusts of wind reaching over 100 miles per hour. Sometimes it helps to just scream when the emotions get too intense.

The weather will change and fluctuate, no doubt. But that will take place over weeks and months, not days or hours. In the rare case, it flips back and forth in a short time — stock up your storm shelter. This is going to be some of the roughest weather you’ve ever seen.

Do you think what I’ve written is implausible? Because if you do, I’d have to agree with you. Perhaps next time you want to label the weather as bipolar, you’ll use a more accurate description instead. How about fickle? Or wishy-washy?

Whatever the weather is, it will never truly be bipolar. 

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Michael Blann.

35
35
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Diary of a Mixed State

213
213
4

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

My eyes open. It’s 10 a.m. Nothing but darkness, with a slight shine breaking the edge of the black sheet blanketing the window. I shield my eyes with the bend inside my elbow. I’m awake. I’m alive. Another day I don’t know how to handle. I slide the shower lever. Water, extra hot, rains on my back. It burns. It feels good. It reminds me of my skin, of nerves, of feeling. I don’t want to get out and face the world. This is my sanctuary.

It’s 90 degrees out. I pop on my beanie because there’s no use for style today. I don’t eat breakfast. I slide into my car, start the engine, breathe deeply and talk the anxiety away. It stays.

Foot on the gas. Driving. I smile. I feel that instant rush of energy. Pedal to the floor. I climb: 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. Wait. What am I doing? I slow. I want new shoes. I buy new shoes. I want new jeans. I buy new jeans. The mall is my closet. Whatever I want I shall have. Credit card swipes. Swipes. Swipes. It’s a rush. I walk outside with a stride, a leap, a gulping laughter.

What did I just do? No money. No use. I am a failure. Who would ever want me? I don’t want me. I do nothing right. Fuck. You’re useless. You’re better off dead. Don’t you even dare wake up tomorrow.

Beer. It sloshes in the glass. I feel better. What was I even thinking? I’m fine! I’m basically invincible. I have to tell someone how great today is!

Text. Text. Text.

Ramble. Ramble. Ramble.

No response.

No response.

It’s been 10 minutes. No response. Why?

Because I’m loveless. Nothing. No one. Who cares?

I drive. No direction. Maybe the mountains? No. Maybe the city? No.

Circles, squares, parking lots. I need to drive. I need to get somewhere. Puff. It’s my eighth cigarette today. Feels good. Feels bad. I buy another pack.

Sunset. Beautiful. Calming. Exhausted.

Unsure what to feel, I slip into bed. TV. Another shower. I slowly fade.

I’m alive. I feel better. I’m stable.

It was my second mixed state, but I’m getting better.

And I know there’s hope.

There’s always hope.

There’s. Always. Hope.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Angel Monsanto III.

213
213
4
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.