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13 Photos That Show the 'Embarrassing' Sides of Bipolar Disorder We Don't Talk About


Written by Felix Kalvesmaki.

As with any mental illness, bipolar disorder can often feel difficult to put into words. There’s a common misunderstanding that it’s “all in your head,” so to speak. The symptoms that make it diagnosable, and the emotions that come along because of those symptoms, are all a result of something going on in your brain.

And that’s true. Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder. It is diagnosed and medicated by doctors who specialize in mental health disorders. However, while many symptoms of bipolar affect your mind, the effects of those symptoms can be more visible. During mania, it may be a lack of need for sleep. For depression, it may be sleeping too much.

Bipolar disorder may be an “invisible illness” but sometimes, the consequences of living with it are incredibly apparent. So, we decided to ask our bipolar disorder community to show us a photo of the “embarrassing” or “messy” side of living with bipolar. Read what they said below.

Dealing with bipolar can be hard. This post reminds us that it’s alright to not feel alright. Click on the photo to join the conversation!

A post on The Mighty. It reads: "It’s ok to ask for help. You aren’t being weak- that’s showing strength. It’s ok to show others that you are broken. If you didn’t know what it felt like to be broken, you couldn’t rejoice in feeling whole. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect and put together. Those who really love you will love you anyway. #Depression #BipolarDisorder #MentalHealth"

Here’s what they said.

1. “Sometimes all I can do is hide in bed. Luckily, my dog is in training to be a service animal and recognizes my depression. She’s the best nurse. There aren’t really pictures of me when I’m manic, because I’m moving too fast, but there are a lot of pictures of me and my dog snuggling.” — Liz C

A photo of a young woman laying in bed with a dog.

2. “This was drawn in one sitting during a manic episode I had. A bit of background: I’ve been dying for a cannabis lounge since my state legalized it and was excited for such an idea, but realistically it’ll never come through. This is probably an expression of hope that turned into obsession. I was even readying to do the paperwork. I suppose the mindset of ‘If no one’s gone for it, then you go for it’ set in. It messes you up.” — Sebastian L.

A photo of a piece of notebook paper with sketches and bulleted lists written on it, trying to make a plan on how to get legal marijuana.

Need a non-judgmental place to talk about bipolar disorder? Download our app and connect with others using the hashtag #Bipolar.

3. “Deep state of depression. Was totally numb.” — Kerry B.
A photo of a woman looking into the camera with a frown on her face.

4. “Three days of rapid cycling and serious lack of sleep. Cognitive malfunction, not able to eat — forget showering. Go to bed in the same clothes I go to work in… for days.” — Camilla G.B.

A photo of a woman looking into the camera, wearing work clothes she slept in.

5. “I have ICD, impulse control disorder. Similar to OCD in its obsessiveness, but specific to forms of self-inflicted behaviors. For me, it means I pluck hair and literally claw at my skin to the point of taking small chunks out anywhere I feel a blackhead or other imperfection. Manic episodes often up the intensity of it. Instead of absently plucking hair out if head with fingers, I get tweezers and methodically rip hair out by roots and separate natural color from silver strands. No reason why, but still… I can lose hours to this. The hyper-focus becomes so intense I don’t even hear or see the world around me. Just the sound of hair being ripped out, the sight of silver hairs.” — Fidget Z.

A photo of hairs torn out of one's body.

6. “I’m dealing with a mountain of desperately-needed dental work because during depression episodes, I let personal care slide. I’ve already had one [tooth] pulled, I’ll have at least one other (maybe more) pulled later this month. I’ve had one root canal already and I’ll need countless more.” — Jenn L.

A photo of someone's dental x-ray in a dentist's office.

7. “This was taken only for a very close friend of mine, but I’ll share it here too. This is how I look after a breakdown. All wet from cold sweat, tired and just utterly drained. Wish people could understand that it can be hard to deal with and stop the stigma and hard words. That is why I share even though I have major insecurities and I look so awful in the picture, but it is my reality sometimes.” — Mirena M.

A photo of a young person looking into the camera with a straight face.

8. “This was before I had a depressive meltdown. I live in my bed when I get depressed. I know that doesn’t help it, but it’s the only thing I feel like I can do. No pillow case. No makeup. Just sad.” — Samantha H.G.

A photo of a young woman laying in bed, without makeup.

9. “This picture. Why? In this photo I’m incredibly depressed. I was going through a mixed state where I also was rarely sleeping and experiencing endless anxiety. In fact, I had just had a full manic breakdown four days earlier. I thought if I looked happy, no one would notice I was feeling out of control and suicidal. My smile is fake, and I’m ashamed I worked so hard to pretend I was OK instead of truly working to be OK and honest about my battle with bipolar disorder.” — Sami J.S.

A photo of a young woman smiling into the camera, wearing sunglasses.

10. “This is a photo of me during a mixed state of mania and depression. I could hardly get up to shower, but I also kept dyeing my hair and getting tattoos. I was hiding behind sexy outfits and makeup, then breaking into tears and catatonic states. I flip-flopped so much I was never sure what part of my emotions were real.” — Kaila W.

11. “I have hypergraphia so I have tons of notebooks and sketchpads everywhere. My room is a wreck (particularly next to the bed) and I just can’t clean it, all I want to do is write.” — Shayla F.W.

A photo of a cluttered room, covered with notepads and post-it notes.

12. “I was sitting in Dunkin Donuts, waiting for my bus to go work out. I was tired! I had been in a hypomanic state for about two days and I hadn’t slept. I crashed right before this pic. I don’t know how long I was in the bathroom sobbing. I sent this to my mom to ask if you could tell I had been crying. I didn’t want anyone to know what was wrong. I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I just wanted to go home, get in bed and go to sleep. I went through with my workout because my trainer had already been paid for the session. But I went to the locker room and cried for I don’t know how long, right after that.” — Ashley B.

A photo of a young woman sitting in a restaurant with earbuds in, staring into the camera.

13. “My picture represents the numerous amounts of times of medications I have had to change and try the new ones prescribed to me. My facial expression says it all — I am tired of fighting. I stay strong for my family, for myself, and most important of all of, my son who needs his mother in life to hold his hand and guide him. I consider this picture ‘messy’ on the count of all the pill bottles sitting in front of me, deciding what is right and what is wrong for me. I’m a full-functioning manic-depressive woman with a bottle clutched tight, filled with emotions. Some days I cry, some days I smile, but most of all, I feel the rain when it hits me.” — Meghan A.

A photo of a woman in front of 14 pill bottles, looking straight into the camera. The pill bottle labels are blurred out.

Bipolar disorder shows up in a variety of ways, as these photos prove. It’s important to remember that regardless of how your bipolar appears in your life, you are valid. There is no “wrong” way to live with bipolar disorder. If you’re thriving, that’s OK. If you’re just surviving, that’s OK too. No mental illness can take away your strength to live on.

What are the “embarrassing” sides of your bipolar disorder? Let us know in the comments!