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What a 'Typical' Morning Is Like With Bipolar Disorder

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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 741741.

I woke up this morning only to wish that I didn’t. Every day, when I first open my eyes, I forget. I forget the pain. I forget the monotony. I forget the amount of effort it takes for me to function. I forget I’m chronically ill. In those first few seconds of the day, I feel light. I feel whole. I feel free. And then, all at once, the heaviness pushes down on my chest. Nothingness becomes everything. Now, I lie in bed dreading the day. I lie there debilitated by anxiety, depression, and discomfort. The thought of rising even to get dressed is too intimidating. Only five minutes have passed and every ounce of energy I have is already depleting.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The spiraling begins. What if I can’t or don’t show up for work? What if I let people down? What if I have a breakdown — crying spells or a panic attack? What if my meds. don’t kick in? What if I embarrass myself? What if people can tell I’m struggling? What if I lose my job? If I lose my job, how will I afford my meds or therapy or anything? How can I support myself then, if I barely can now? If I can’t afford medication, then I will go manic. If I go manic, will I ruin more relationships than I already have? Will I end up spending more money than I have? Will I end up in dangerous situations? Will I outlast the debilitating hallucinations?

Or what if I go low… incredibly, unbearably low? What then? How will I fight off the suicidal thoughts that come without fail? They’re faithful and reliable. How will I drag myself out of bed? How will I take care of myself — shower, eat, drive? How can I manage the catatonic spells? I can’t do this. I won’t do this. I don’t want to do this. Make it stop. Make these thoughts stop.

The spiral never does less than suffocate — it always strips me of hope, always fills me with fear. I know I need to get up. I know it. Yet, my sheets feel just as heavy and wretched as my heart does. The onslaught of damning thoughts all in a matter of minutes. It’s difficult to not beat myself up and take full responsibility for my illness — it’s hard to provide grace for my mind and soul. I didn’t choose to struggle day in and day out. I didn’t choose to take medications for the rest of my life. I didn’t choose to reach the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a matter of weeks, the never-ending, terrifying rapid cycle. I didn’t choose to be sick.

I don’t entirely know how I do it, but usually, I manage to roll myself out of the safety and sanctuary of my covers. Normally, this process is underlined by cursing, praying, and tears. But, I do it — remembering this doesn’t have to be pretty. Don’t misunderstand, please know there are many days I lose this battle. There are days I don’t leave my room. There are days I don’t shower. There are days I don’t make it to the gym or eat as healthy as I should. There are days I must take a few sick hours to gather myself, to gather the courage and strength to do what I do.

This thing I do — I do it well. This thing I do requires introspection, patience, and stamina. Yes, I’m not perfect. Yes, I have and know my limits. Yes, I have and know my boundaries — I abide my them for functionality. Yes, I know when I am not in a place to be serving others in the helping profession. Yes. Simply, just yes. Knowing all these things doesn’t help as much as you’d think. And, still, I make it. I realize I don’t need to know how I do it, as long as I honor Nike and just do it. (That was a silly reference, but it doesn’t make it any less true.)

Go to therapy. Take your meds. Call your mom. Take a mental health day. Read. Cry. Dance. Sing. Scream. Go to the gym. Skip the gym. Make a smoothie. Eat pizza. Text a friend. Go to a movie. Make it to church. Skip church. Make brunch. Buy brunch. Hop out of bed. Stay in bed all day. Cry. Just cry. Get some coffee — make it at home or splurge on Starbucks. Lose yourself in the brightness of simple pleasures in this life. Often, I may feel hopelessly surrounded by darkness, but those flashes of light give me purpose. Hold on to it. Don’t let go. Just be — who you are is infinitely more important that what you can do. That’s a reminder we all desperately need. Just be.

Getty image by StefaNikolic

Originally published: February 10, 2022
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