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What You Don't See When I Tell You I'm Struggling With Bipolar Disorder and Suicidal Thoughts

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When I look at myself and ask, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most messed up of them all?” I recognize that what I see in myself is probably not what you see in me. I’m a functional 20-something-year-old living with bipolar disorder, and most people don’t know that. When they finally discover this, or find me in a rut, they tell me their most heartfelt well wishes. When I hear them tell me this, I wish they knew how I actually felt about it.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

When I share my life living with bipolar disorder on my blog:

You say, “You’re so brave for telling the whole world and helping others through your blog posts.”

I think, “Only some of my friends read my blog posts. I bet most of my family doesn’t. #NoNewFriends”

When I tell you how I struggled to stay at work or interact with the world… because my heart could explode from anxiety and yet my mind is as numb as ice:

You say, “You won today. You made it through and didn’t back down.”

I think, “Really? I sure feel like crap. I’m 25 years old and can’t even leave the house without being overwhelmed by human stimulation.”

When I survive every depressed/anxious/hypomanic episode for months on end:

You say, “Look how strong you are. You just have to keep fighting.”

I think, “Dear bipolar disorder, when is our next episode? In a month, or will it be in half a year?”

When I’m breaking down and suicide seems like my only light at the end of the tunnel:

You say, “Breathe, you’re going to make it through. We can change it. It’ll get better.”

I think, “Please let me go and stop the pain. I know the pain will come and go, but this pain is my second home. It has been my whole life for me to live and only for you to witness.”

When I tell you I can figure out how to jump these subway tracks every time I commute to work:

You say, “Don’t do it. It’ll never work. You probably won’t die. You’ll be left severely injured.”

I think, “I wish you knew my limits and how much pain I’m in.”

That’s what differentiates how you see me and how I see myself.

You see hopelessness.

I feel hopeless.

You see bravery.

I see survivor trying to keep afloat.

I’m still grateful to have such a supportive network despite these technical differences. They still hold me when I’m a wet ball of snot on the floor. They will always put their lives on hold to sit silently with me on my couch. Or just let me pace, knowing it is the only way for me to remain sane and intact.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Photo by Jimmy Chang, via Unsplash

Originally published: August 18, 2017
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