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The Angel and Devil of My Bipolar Disorder

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Let me give you a metaphor to ponder. I like to refer to my bipolar disorder as having an angel on one shoulder and having a demon on the other — just like you see in movies where someone is trying to make a big decision. Except, I’m not usually making decisions, I’m just having a battle inside my head. A battle that leaves me more exhausted than when I do a rigorous full body workout, which I try to do at least a couple of times a week.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Now, the angel is whispering nice things to me like, “Everything is OK. The demon is lying to you. Don’t listen to it. You’ll get passed this, etc.”

On the other shoulder, that awful demon is screaming mean things. It can be any variation of things, but always there is name calling.

I’d like to give you a scenario to help you understand a little better. Here’s a little back story for you. I’m a medical assistant and I work with two other nurses, taking turns with rooming and assisting with patients in a rotational order. Most days are OK because there are three of us, but today we only had two. Today in particular the other nurse saw probably five patients more than me. You may not understand what this means, and that’s OK. You’ll see where I’m getting at a little later on.

I imagine if my angel and demon were having a conversation or argument with each other and I could actually hear their voices, it would sound like this.

I look at the schedule and notice the other nurse has seen more patients than me. A war then forms inside my head. The demon starts it off with, “You’re so incompetent, you’re not even quick enough to keep up with the other nurse.” My angel tries to chime in and replies with, “That’s not true, you can’t help how the flow of patients is laid out, you’re doing a lot in the room with the doctor, the other nurse is in and out with hers.” The demon rebuttals with, “Oh she notices and she’s annoyed that you aren’t seeing as many as her. She’s not gonna like you after this, tisk tisk.”

Meanwhile I’m struggling to tell myself not to let another war begin, that I’m better than this and that’s what my medication is for. The angel sides with me and says, “You’re damn right you’re better than this, she doesn’t even notice that you’ve seen less than her. She knows how the flow goes and she doesn’t seem upset at all.” With that boost of positivity comes the evil voice slamming that comment away with a swift, “Even if she isn’t upset about it, the managers will notice when they look at the schedule. They’ll think you’re not good enough and they’ll have a talk with you!”

By this point, I’m expressively flustered, and no one else knows the reason why. Everything appears fine to them, but they have no idea what’s happening in my head, and in my brain.

A few weeks ago I received my annual review and was given a dollar raise for being “A+ awesome” (their words, not mine) but was also told the only thing I needed to work on was trying to control expressing my emotions of being frustrated or flustered. Even though this is extremely difficult for me, I agree to try. I really do try, but it’s not easy for me all the time.

Now the angel reassures me, “If you were incompetent, they wouldn’t have given you a dollar raise. They even mentioned in the review that they don’t usually do that. What does that tell you? You’re doing great!” This time I listen to her… this time I refuse to lose! I decide right then to tell myself I can’t let this ruin my day, everything is OK, and no one cares if I didn’t see as many as she did. Tomorrow is another day, be strong and

We won this time, which is a victory because the demon wins most of the time. But here’s the thing… I’m working on me. I am learning techniques and strategies to be stable, and with that and medications, I am getting better and better every day. I hope this gives other people who struggle with this battle, courage to stand up for yourself or against yourself, and find ways to work through it all. It’s so hard — so, so hard — and this is only one of the many struggles. But I know you can do it too! I believe in you.

Originally published: July 6, 2016
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