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The Parts of My Bipolar Disorder I Can't Talk About

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Over the years, I became a strong advocate about mental illness and the struggles I face on a daily basis. I have been through a lot in my life, and I have always been candid and forthcoming talking to people about it — either to raise awareness or bring someone hope who might need it. However, there are things I can’t talk about, things that are personal. It is as if it “easier” for me to talk about the stigma of mental health because it is already being talked about. What I can’t talk about is what comes to others so seemingly effortlessly and I’m too embarrassed to admit, sometimes even to myself.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

1. Why I’m not employed.

In 2019, my husband finished his MBA and I got to know his alumni really well. I was in awe of the women there, having full-time careers (don’t even get me started on what some of them are), taking care of a family and studying one of the toughest business courses in the world at one of the top-ranking schools. I felt so small, insignificant, worthless and unintelligent. When they would ask me what I do for a living, and I had to answer to of all these fabulous women, “nothing,” I would shrink even more and more into an abyss.

What I wanted to say is I don’t work because mentally I don’t have the drive or capacity to get myself to commit to studying anything to put on my CV to be considered for any job. What I wanted to say is my brain is completely unable to retain any information because of the medication I am taking and because of the choices and the lifestyle I lead because of the bipolar disorder, I have closed a lot of doors for myself.

I wanted to say my mental illness and the struggles I face make me an unpredictable worker. I am someone who commits all of my energy and concentration when presented with a task or commitment. Therefore, I easily drain myself and then I find myself too exhausted to finish any of my other tasks or obligations. There are a lot of people who are like that, the MBA alumni did all of it for 18 months. Most people then need a proper holiday to recover and regain their drive. I have a complete breakdown that can last for days or months.

2. I struggle to be intimate sexually with my husband. 

I am a passionate person. Poetry moves me, I become 4 years old when I see puppies or anything Harley Quinn related. When I tell a story, I make it colorful and detailed. I try to find things to make me feel alive.

I enjoy sex. Let me rephrase that, I enjoyed sex. I enjoyed being a bit naughty, variety, playing and quickies. One of the side effects of the medication I take is decreased libido and difficulty reaching an orgasm. This is not really a topic that comes up during happy hour on girl’s night sipping cocktails. I rarely talk to my husband about it. It gets exhausting talking about all the ways my mental health struggles are robbing me, and us, of everything. Therefore, we are just slowly starting to avoid the topic altogether.

It is a very lonely space to be and it plays such a huge part in a marriage. The difficulties it leads to in our relationship cause me anxiety and more depression, which sends off the runaway train. It creates a distance not only between us as spouses, but for me as an individual and wife. I feel alone and worthless because I cannot satisfy my husband and bipolar is not just taking some things away from me I use to enjoy — it is taking all things. It is also robbing others of the best parts of me and that is simply not fair.

3. I feel unintelligent all the time.

I feel so out of place and avoid people more than usual. Figuring out the right dosage, the right psychologist and psychiatrist is a never-ending battle. In my experience, it rarely is a match made in heaven, and somewhere something’s always got to give. Usually, it’s to compromise on the medication and its side effects. I am lucky to have an incredible psychologist; however, having been misdiagnosed recently and having to change my whole treatment basis and medication after 20 years turns out to be a nightmare.

I have been treated for recurring major depressive disorder, but I actually have bipolar disorder II. The side effects of the new medications ranged from weight gain, skin outbreak, not sleeping properly, extreme irritability and boredom, emotional numbness and excessive drooling. However, the worst side effect is I feel like a child learning comprehension all over again. I struggle with creativity, basic storytelling, conversing instructions and not feeling motivated to do anything. The motivation is not just rooting from depression, I just don’t feel like doing anything.

Not like talking about what is bothering me, like watching a movie or series, playing my favorite Xbox game, going for a walk, reading … nothing. To do anything is too much of a child-like effort, it is energy. The energy I don’t have. I need to put in so much effort to explain myself and find the words and emotions for someone to understand where I am coming from that I would rather sleep or find a quiet spot and mind my own business. Even trying to explain this paragraph I am frustrated because I feel I am not explaining myself clearly enough.

Living without medication and resources is hell. Living with them can be hell, too. I always say it is not that I want to die, I just don’t want to live this way. There are times things go so well and then the rug gets ripped out from underneath me completely. Why? The only way to survive is to keep on showing up and fight each day for that one at least good day.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: April 28, 2021
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