I have a mental illness and it sucks

I’m fucking mad.

I’m mad that I have to take pills everyday. I’m mad that they don’t work fast enough. I’m mad that they have side effects. I’m mad that they stop working. I’m mad that I currently can’t run because of my meds. I’m really fucking pissed that I feel like a burden to my husband, despite his reassurances that I’m not. I’m mad that he’s afraid to leave me alone. I’m even angrier that I’m afraid to be alone. I’m mad that it seems that my husband and I have a weekly conversation about whether or not we should go to the hospital. I’m mad at how mad I am. I’m mad that I can’t handle stress. I’m mad that I can’t stay up late. I’m mad that I spend what seems like half my life in doctors’ offices. And I’m mad that I’ve had so many blood tests in the past month that the nurse can’t find my veins anymore. It’s like I’m a fucking heroine addict with collapsed veins.

But do you know what I’m most angry at? I’m fucking pissed off that I have a mental illness.

This cat gets me.

This cat gets me.

I may have won the genetic lottery in some aspects of life, but inheriting a mental illness that runs in the family wasn’t my luckiest moment. I don’t know which side of the family I inherited this damn disease from, but both sides make a compelling argument. We’ve got alcoholics to the right and severe depressives to the left, and sometimes the two happen to meet. It’s like my DNA was destined to be fucked.

I know I’m not supposed to say these things publicly because you know, fighting stigma means presenting people with mental illness as happy, healthy, and smiling. Mental health organizations and advocates want to ensure that we appear nonthreatening, so no one really talks about how shitty it is to have a mental illness. Well, guess what? I’m pulling back the motherfucking curtain (and using as many swear words as possible. Does someone want to start a fuck count?).

I have bipolar disorder II and it really fucking sucks. And despite what some mental health advocates say, our mental illnesses do limit our lives.

Almost every major decision that I make is influenced by having bipolar disorder. For example, at 29 years old I have to weigh the consequences of going to a party and staying up late because this means taking my meds late. Taking my meds late means that I’ll be incapacitated by grogginess the next day and waste it in bed. Every time I have a social engagement, I have to ask myself, is it worth it? Instead of agreeing or disagreeing based on my schedule, I weigh the consequences to my mental health. This may seem like a ridiculous, insignificant aspect of life to be worried about. But do it for 10 years and then come back to me and tell me how insignificant it feels. I guarantee eventually you’ll want to just say, “Fuck it! I’m partying tonight who cares!” And then you’ll feel like shit the next day, not because you’re hungover (because being bipolar means you shouldn’t really drink) but because you’re medication is slated to meant to sedate you. You’ll wish you were hungover because it will feel better than being groggy.

Sick person

Or how about this? My ability to manage stress is significantly lower than yours. I don’t know if this is standard across people with bipolar disorder, but it seems the more stressful the situation the more my disease rears its ugly head. This
sucks because I work in a fast-paced, high-stress job that I’ve just realized is not good for my disease. To make matters worse, I’m really good at what I do and I actually like it. A year ago I would have told you that this was my career and I would move up the corporate ladder. But now I’m floundering and debating quitting to work at a coffee shop. This weekend, I saw a job posting for a sales clerk in an odds and ends shop. The store was incredibly quiet and I thought – that would be the life! I know as soon as I can leave this corporate job, it’s the end. There’s no high powered, high paying job in my future. I feel deep in my soul that my life will be filled with part-time work that pays a minimum wage.

stressedSince I don’t manage stress, everything is so fucking overwhelming. I used to be a clean freak, now cleaning my house doesn’t even register on my radar because it’s too stressful. I’m so stress out that it’s a fucking miracle that I get out of bed. It’s a feat that I shower, dress, and put make up on. And guess what? It makes me so angry when I’m having a particularly hard day and someone says, “But look at how well you’re doing.” Well guess what? That’s because I slave away at showing you the put together, efficient, and intelligent professional that you think I am. I would love to show you the crying, angry, insecure mess that lives inside of me, but you don’t actually want to see that. Despite what you say.

When I’m home (never alone, obviously) it’s my husband who gets to see all of these nasty bits. My favourite thing to do right now is to rage cry. This is when I fly into a sudden fury and start throwing and slamming things around until I tire myself out and fall apart and start to cry. This rage is frightening. I’ve never felt anything like it before. On Friday, I flew off the handle in the  middle of the grocery store because I didn’t like the way our groceries had been bagged. The kid doing his job had used too many bags and not filled them with enough things, which made walking home with them impossible. I grabbed the bags and started flinging produce into the bag, screaming “this is how you bag fucking groceries. It’s not fucking rocket science.” (I would know, I worked in a grocery store for 2 years).

Luckily we weren’t in front of the poor kid, but I had completely lost myself inside the anger. This wave of anger was the first time I felt like I could potentially hurt someone else. As I slammed produce into bags, my husband asked if we should go home. He was worried. As a joke he said, “I’m afraid you might kill someone.” I shouted back at him, “Well if I killed someone they would probably deserve it for being so fucking stupid!”

Hurting myself is a regular thought of mine, but hurting someone else has never crossed my mind. And it terrified me.

depressionNormally the rage that lives inside of me is more self-directed. I was so angry this past weekend that I was seriously considering vaulting myself over the ledge of my 6th floor balcony because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not being hyperbolic. I was weighing whether or not the distance from my 6th floor balcony to the ground was far enough to actually kill me, or just paralyze me. I don’t want to be fucking paralyzed and fuck up my husband’s life further than I already have.  I’m actually panicked by the impulsiveness of my rage that I might actually act on it. But suicidal thoughts aren’t new to me. It’s rare that I go one day without thinking about a way to die. Waiting for the metro, and all I think is how easy it would be just to step out and be gone. A cabby takes a left hand turn too quickly and I think, man wouldn’t it be great if he hit me and I died. I pass bodies of water I can’t help but think about drowning. I’m prepping vegetables for dinner and I think, man this knife just wouldn’t be sharp enough to slit my wrists.

This is the reality of my life. I am incredibly unstable right now, which is why everything is so extreme. So, no this isn’t the normal everyday life of a bipolar person, but it’s one part of what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. The hardest part of the disease is that stability is never a guarantee. Sometimes you bring it on yourself, and others it comes out of the blue.

But right now, I’m exhausted by trying to appear normal and pretending that living with my mental illness is no big fucking deal. So the next time you think about “how good I’m performing” or “how good I look” or “that I have a spring in my fucking step” remember that it’s all a performance, an act for your benefit.

The reality is, I have a mental illness and it really fucking sucks.


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Bipolar Disorder isn’t a fucking fad

An American report by the Social Security Administration (SSA) found that “one in three, or 35.2 percent of people getting federal disability insurance benefits have been diagnosed with a mental disorder.” The SSA reported that “disabled beneficiaries have increased 49.7 percent over the past decade” and the “largest ‘diagnostic group’ for disabled beneficiaries was a mental disorder.’ Moreover, not only are the majority of people who are receiving disability benefits suffering from some form of mental illness they are largely diagnosed with a mood disorder.

SSA chat on disabilities

As the pillar of journalistic integrity and high quality news reporting, Fox News Radio host, Tom Sullivan, took to the air to talk about all of these lazy bastards receiving disability benefits:

On Wednesday’s show, Tom said there are too many Americans with “mood disorders” who are gaming the system by collecting disability! He argued that many of these people can still work and support themselves.

You know, all of these people with their imaginary illnesses, like bipolar disorder, need to pull up their bootstraps and stop their parasitic sucking on the American people’s resources. You know, so we can better fund, like, the military or something.

In an attempt to educate Sullivan, Aunglee from Saramento, called in to talk about her bipolar disorder and how the benefits she receives are integral to living a healthy and happy life. I have to give Aunglee credit because she was so calm and level headed it was incredible because frankly, I lost my shit just listening to their conversation.

Media Matters for America (MMfA) transcribed the interview in full and you can listen to it there, but here’s my favourite part. Sullivan actually had the balls to tell this woman that her Bipolar Disorder is “made up” and is a “fad” perpetuated by the pharmaceutical industry:

I’m very skeptical. And I’ve got to tell you, if you haven’t been told, I will tell you. I think bipolar is like the latest fad. Everybody and their brother is getting diagnosed with bipolar. And last time I checked, we all have good days and we all have bad. And I don’t consider that an illness. And I don’t consider it a disability.

Condescending WonkaBipolar Disorder isn’t some Hollywood trend like juicing or detoxing. It’s a disease that psychiatrists can diagnose and treat with medication, or some people are really lucky and can manage their moods just with therapy. Bipolar Disorder is a disease that wreaks havoc on families and ends lives. Bipolar Disorder isn’t just the ups and downs of regular life. It’s not just being sad because your hamster Fluffy died. It’s wanting to drive your car off of a bridge because you’re experiencing suicidal depression. It’s not just about being happy, it’s about being so manic that you start to believe you are the second coming of Jesus Christ – but someone could totally go to work then, right?

I have bipolar disorder and have been on sick-leave for almost five months. My hypomania caused rage that made me afraid of myself and what I might do. My depression was so crippling that all I could do was cry for hours on end. If dealing with the mood fluctuations wasn’t enough, I was a guinea pig for medication adjustments that caused further intense mood swings and side effects. These medications made me dizzy, made me forgetful, made me nauseous, and gave me crippling headaches. At multiple points in my recovery I couldn’t string a sentence together, and as a writer that is something that is extremely important to me. And let’s not forget, the drowsiness. I spent almost a week sleeping because I literally couldn’t open my eyes. But it’s not a disability, right?

But Bipolar Disorder “didn’t exist 25 years ago” until Big Pharma got involved. You know, because according to Sullivan, Bipolar Disorder is “made up by the mental health business just to be able to give people prescriptions.”

Actually, 25 years ago, people with bipolar disorder were called manic depressives. The term manic depression was coined in 1899 by German psychiatrist Emil Kraeplin who developed the classification system for mental illness. The term Bipolar Disorder wasn’t used until the 1980s when the DSM-III was released, which was seen as a revolutionary text in psychiatry (DSM-III and the transformation of American psychiatry: a history). So the disease has existed for over a hundred years, but bipolar disorder is just a fad, right?

So why change the name of an illness that had existed for over 80 years? Stigma (surprise, surprise!) In the introduction to her book, Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture, Emily Martin cites a 2002 press release by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance who were changing their name from the National Depression and Manic Depression Association because, “many people are frightened by the term “manic depression” and this keeps them from contacting us for help.

I often get asked why I speak so openly about my experiences with mental health and it’s because of people like Tom Sullivan. Everyday of my life I battle against my disease. Everyday I take pills that are somewhat poisonous to my body, not because “somebody’s talked me into feeling and thinking this way” but because they are my lifeline. They are literally the only way I can function like an average person and even then I have mood blips that aren’t “normal” (whatever that means).

So before you start to discredit someone’s lived experience with mental illness, maybe you should shut up and listen. Or, at least read a book.